George Lucas Educational Foundation
Bullying Prevention

5 Ways to Stop Bullying and Move into Action

With daily news reports about the devastating impact on students who have been relentlessly bullied, teachers find themselves on the front line in addressing bullying and intolerance.

It is time to move into action. Not In Our School offers solutions-based strategies and tools for change to a network of schools that are working to create safe, inclusive and accepting climates. The core ideas and actions of Not In Our School include:

Identification of Problems of Intolerance and Bullying

The focus is on problems that result from students bullying, harassing or being exclusionary and hateful. Often, harassment is based on gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, appearance, or disability. The first step is to start with a dialogue about the particular problem. Start with a lesson on mapping bully zones.

Solutions Defined by Students and Peer-to-Peer Actions

Students are supported in defining the problems and solutions needed to incorporate peer-to-peer actions, make their schools safe and help bystanders gather the courage to become "upstanders." A student-led anti-bullying assembly is a powerful way to encourage everyone to get involved.

Collective Voice

The entire school community unites to say Not in Our School. This could take many forms -- buttons, banners, slogans, t-shirts, pledges, assemblies and school-wide activities -- but it needs to grow out of authentic discussion and efforts to create a safe and welcoming environment for students of all backgrounds and gender identities. We've created a quick-start download to help launch this effort at your school.

Many activities have been successfully implemented in schools and may be viewed in videos with lesson guides on the Not In Our School website. An array of testimonials from administrators, teachers, and students are available as well.

What is the Urgency?

In three horrifying hate crimes by teens and young adults, a 21-year-old man killed nine African Americans during a bible study group in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015; and high school students murdered a transgender Latina youth in Newark, California in 2002, and a Latino man in Patchogue, New York in 2008. As many as 20 people were involved in or stood and watched the gang rape of a 15-year-old girl outside a Richmond, California high school homecoming dance in 2009. Every day, news outlets report cases of youth who are bullied because they are perceived to be gay.

Bullying can lead to serious emotional problems, multiple school absences, and higher risk factors for suicide. These incidents have raised national awareness with anti-bullying laws in all 50 states that require schools to take immediate action regarding bullying. According to a UCLA psychology study, 70.6 percent of teens have seen bullying occur in their schools. But if someone intervenes, the bullying stops within 10 seconds. Additionally, research from scholars at University of California - Davis found that approaches to bullying and harassment have a better chance of success if bystanders, who make up the vast majority, are the focus of efforts to shift social norms. Interestingly, students seeking to move up the social ladder engage in acts of social cruelty, erroneously believing that it will increase their status. In our PBS film Not In Our Town: Class Actions, middle school students take the lead in educating their peers and their teachers in a NIOS anti-bullying initiative that reached 50,000 students following two suicides of local youth in Lancaster, California.

Five Practical Ways to Stop Bullying and Intolerance

1) Recognize and Respond

Bullying and intolerance manifest as verbal, written or physical acts that harm another person.

  • Educate students, parents and staff about taking bullying seriously and how to recognize it. Make an action plan to respond swiftly to incidents and daily teasing.
  • Identify and monitor places where most bullying happens (e.g., on the way to and from school, in the cafeteria, and on the school yard.)

2) Create Dialogue

Create opportunities for open dialogue with youth about bullying and intolerance. Let students lead through peer-to-peer action.

  • Provide opportunities for students to share their feelings, problems or ideas.
  • Get students involved in organizing anti-bullying forums where they resolve problems.

3) Encourage Bystanders to Become "Upstanders"

Upstanders are people who stand up for themselves and others.

  • Model ways for young people to intervene and speak up. Practice with role-playing.
  • Help youth develop effective phrases to reject negative comments or social media posts.
  • Have older students help younger students learn to speak up.

4) Foster Safety and Inclusion

Foster identify safe and welcoming environments that promote inclusion and acceptance, places where students feel everyone is respected and their identity is valued.

  • Connect with young people and create the trust that will help them come forward if they are being bullied.
  • Listen to them, pay attention and offer support when students are upset or sad.

5) Educate Your Community

Partner with others to take joint action in educating students, teachers and parents about bullying in your school and community.

  • Create a coalition of elected, school and civic community leaders to sign a school-wide pledge to say No Bullying: Not In Our School/Not In Our Town.
  • Sponsor a "Not In Our Schools" Week with buttons, banners, slogans, t-shirts and school-wide activities.

A Movement

Not in Our School as a movement and campaign is an effort that asks everyone to change the atmosphere that can lead to bullying and intolerance. Although the process can begin with these five steps, a safer climate for students does not happen overnight. It requires a sustained and collaborative effort of students, parents, educators and community members who work together to model and practice empathy, thoughtful responses and respect for different backgrounds and perspectives. It grows out of authentic discussion and efforts to create a safe and welcoming environment for students of all backgrounds and gender identities. In this lesson idea, "New Immigrants Share Their Stories" students may begin to think about their own relationships in the community.

School needs to be a place where students discover their identities, and where each student feels that a unique identity is an asset to him or her -- and to the world. They need to feel emotionally comfortable in a warm and "identity safe" environment where stereotypes and stereotype threat (the fear of being judged by a negative stereotype) are addressed. Efforts to build empathy and involve students in the process of change can shift the school culture to one where offending or hurting someone else, either in person or online, is not seen as cool. The whole culture can become a warm, caring environment where bullying is much less likely to occur.

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StudentSpeaker's picture

It's a chain reaction. The bully will hurt the victim. The bully will get a bad reputation and the victim will be hurt inside and/or out. Teachers should inform everyone about this and it could very well change the bully's mind by making them relize that they're bullying themselves as well.

Chelsea Elstad's picture

I agree that bullying is often based on gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, appearance or disability. I also think bullying exists because not many students know about diversity or how to interact properly with people who has different background, culture or race.

I think it is really important to educate students in school about diversity. The teachers can teach or expose them when the students are in elementary or middle school, because that is when they can learn and accept better than when the students are older.

I liked your post! Thank you.

Donny Suitor's picture

Kerry Girling is one of the best anti bully speakers I've ever seen. What he has created is a solution for bullying. He always says if he can help one person he's done his job. If you have a bully problem this is how to stop it kerrygirling. com/how-to-stop-bullying

Cheri Lian's picture
Cheri Lian
Creator of Genna & Russ, The Generous Kids

The only way to stop bullying is to raise our kids NOT to be bullies. Teachers and parents are using our products as SEL tools. Many Head Start programs are using Genna and Russ, the Generous Kids in their classrooms as part of their anti-bullying curriculum. If we don't raise our kids to be kind, compassionate, generous people, the cycle of bullying will continue...and more kids will die.

Jim Edgar Sr's picture

The show, Wanda's World, is another initiative to combat bullying. The show - - originally performed off-Broadway is presently scheduled to tour East Coast schools and local venues. It is described on the, the crowd funding site. The lead is a performer from Southern California. It might be possible to arrange a West Coast tour.

Tonya Boynton's picture
Tonya Boynton
2nd grade teacher from Pendleton, Indiana

At 16, my son created an app to help fight bullying. It empowers students to take a stand through ANONYMOUS reporting right from their phones/devices. It is free to students of participating schools. Please take the time to check out

md2205's picture

There is a wonderful website called www.bullies2buddies. Izzy Kalman, psychologist, teaches children how to respond to bullying on their own without need of intervention. The communication techniques he teaches are so fun and easy to learn, and so effective that within a couple of days, the bullying is over and the bullies are now friends with the kid they bullied. It is amazing to watch, and the bullied kid gets such a kick out of seeing their former bully confused and stammering. Please visit this website, for your children's sakes, because in one or two fun private sessions, he can teach your child communication techniques that besides being effective, promote social confidence and emotional maturity. I know a child who learned it and within two days, the entire class was turned around and everyone was friends.

Sean M. Brooks's picture

Any education on the topic of bullying must come from Health Education Classes. These classes incorporate violence prevention and conflict resolution within the designed curriculum. With out this in place as the foundation, a school is putting a Band-Aid on a gushing artery. Having guest speakers is counter productive to consistent and regular health education that occurs from a certified health education teacher. This individual should teach health education and no other class in school. Gym teachers should not be left to teach this subject nor should nurses. They are not trained in the psychology of violence and bring little instructional techniques to the learning environment. Bullying education is a huge part of health education curriculum. It includes, the history of violence and conflicts, social media literacy, cyberbullying, healthy relationships, dating violence, rape, assault, battery and resources to solve problems with realistic environmental applications.

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