Bullying in schools is as pervasive as it is damaging to all involved parties — and it’s also preventable. According to Welcoming Schools Deputy Director Cheryl Greene, the single most important way to address bullying behavior is to “promote positive ally behavior.”
1. Model upstander behavior. Students watch what you do and will follow your lead. They notice when you treat others with kindness and respect, as well as whether you intervene to put a stop to hurtful name-calling or comments.
2. Explicitly teach students how to be an ally. Recognize that direct confrontation isn’t always a comfortable or even safe choice. Work with your students so they know that being an ally does not always mean intervening in a harmful situation. Students should know they can also let an adult know when bullying occurs, or they can comfort the person being bullied and offer to go with them to speak with an adult.
3. Practice. Rehearsal is an essential part of mastering any new skill. Talk and even role play possible scenarios. Try the Welcoming Schools’ activity “Making Decisions: Ally or Bystander,” in which students consider different bullying situations and decide in the moment how they will respond.