Bystanders: Turning Onlookers into Bully-Prevention Agents

Bystanders: Turning Onlookers into Bully-Prevention Agents

Introduction

Most students in a classroom or school do not bully others regularly and are not victimized by bullies. A common misconception about these student 'bystanders', though, is that they typically remain neutral or try to support the victim when they see bullying occurring. Unfortunately, the truth is that students who observe bullying are much more likely to encourage or assist the bully than to attempt to help the victim! With appropriate instruction and guidance, however, bystanders can be empowered to take an active role in preventing bullying from occurring and to report bullying to adults when it does take place. To 'win over' bystanders as bully-prevention agents, the teacher should (1) make bystanders aware that their own behavior can encourage or discourage bullying, (2) teach skills that bystanders can use to intervene when they witness bullying, (3) hold bystanders accountable for their behavior in bullying situations, and (4) structure classroom and schoolwide activities to encourage bystanders to develop positive relationships with potential victims. This issue of the Practical Teacher presents ideas for working with student bystanders.

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