Empowering Students to Stand up for their Bullied Peers

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Empowering Students to Stand up for their Bullied Peers

Nearly 160,000 kids stay home from school every day to keep away from a school bully. (“Nation's Educators Continue Push for Safe, Bully-Free Environments.” NEA, National Education Association, 8 Oct. 2012, www.nea.org/home/53298.htm.) 28% of all young people in the US experience cyberbullying and almost one in four are bullied in person. (“Facts About Bullying.” StopBullying.gov, Department of Health and Human Services, www.stopbullying.gov/media/facts/index.html#stats.) Schools and staff are obligated to do their part to prevent bullying in their classrooms and schools, however, bullying often happens when an adult is not around and only about 20% to 30% of bullying is reported to an adult. This percentage decreases as the children get older. Because teachers may not always be around to see bullying, it is vital that students are taught how to stand up to bullies and be an ally for their peers with low risk and highly effective strategies.

What Does it Mean to Be an Ally?

Being an ally doesn’t mean outright challenging the bully. Many young people find conflict difficult because it takes a lot of courage and assertiveness. Many adults don’t have the courage to speak out against bullies, so it shouldn’t be expected from children. Students and all young people need to learn realistic ways to face a bully.

Support the Bullied Peer

Supporting someone who’s being bullied can include encouraging the person to report the incident or even going with them if they choose to tell a trusted adult. Another way to support them is by reaching out in person or by text and letting them know that you don’t agree with what happened to them and you are sorry. Support from fellow classmates leads to more positive outcomes for the bullied student.  

Don’t Engage

This may sound like passive bystanding, but it is truly effective in supporting the targeted person. For example, if a group of kids are laughing at someone, an ally could make a point not to laugh along and instead say something to change the subject. This sends a powerful message to the bully that their behavior is wrong, and you won’t stand for it.

Tell a Trusted Adult

Many students choose not to report a bully because they don’t think it will help, it might make things worse, or the bully may find out and target them. Because students find it already difficult to tell an adult, it is important that teachers create a safe environment for their students. Students are more likely to take the issue to an adult when the adult is approachable. Teachers can be approachable by taking issues seriously, letting the students know you are available to talk, really listening when they do come to talk to you, and remaining discreet. Teachers should also encourage students to tell any trusted adult not just them. Lastly, it’s important to make sure your school has safe and confidential procedures in place for reporting bullying incidents – and that you know what they are.

Fighting Against Cyberbullies

When young ones see bullying online they can show their disapproval by leaving the group chat or online party. They should also not respond to the cyberbully or spread the messages to their friends. Students can also support the person being bullied by reaching out to them with an encouraging message or suggest that they block their bully on social media. They can visit social media safety centers to learn how to block users and change settings to control who can contact you. It is suggested to take a screenshot of any bullying online and report it to an adult. Young allies can spread their own inclusive, nonbiased, and respectful messages, by creating original comments or posts. Cyberbullying often violates the terms of service established by social media sites and internet service providers, and it can be reported to the social media site, so they can take action against users abusing their terms of service. 

Teachers also need to teach their students when cyberbullying has become more serious and should be reported to the authorities. When cyberbullying involves these activities, it is considered a crime and should be reported to law enforcement:

  • Threats of violence
  • Child pornography or sending sexually explicit messages or photos
  • Taking a photo or video of someone in a place where he or she would expect privacy
  • Stalking and hate crimes

Some states consider other forms of cyberbullying criminal. Consult your state’s laws and law enforcement for additional guidance.

Report Cyberbullying to Schools

  • Cyberbullying can create a disruptive environment at school and is often related to in-person bullying. The school can use the information to help inform prevention and response strategies
  • In many states, schools are required to address cyberbullying in their anti-bullying policy. Some state laws also cover off-campus behavior that creates a hostile school environment.

Strong people stand up for themselves, but the strongest people stand up for others. – Chris Gardner

CE Credits Online has been providing accredited, online professional development courses to teachers in NYC, LAUSD, and across the country for almost 20 years.


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