Working to create a safe, supportive, and engaging school climate can save lives.
As an educator, you play a central role in creating an environment that is safe, supportive, engaging, and helpfully challenging for all students. A comprehensive—individual, small group, school-wide and school-community wide—effort to prevent bully-victim behavior and promote upstander behavior is a foundation to achieving this goal
Bully-victim behavior is a serious public health problem (U.S. Center for Disease Control). Historically, K-12 bully prevention efforts have focused exclusively on the bully and/or the victim, despite over a decade of research showing how ineffective zero tolerance policies and practices are.
The growing body of research all underscores the same thing: bully-victim behavior is toxic; it undermines K-12 student's capacity to develop and learn in healthy ways. (In fact, when students bully and/or are victimized over time it dramatically increases the likelihood that they will develop significant psychosocial problems.)
Effective bully prevention efforts are ones that actually protect children and adults from harm as well as promoting school wide learning that supports social responsibility: upstander behavior. As we have outlined in Breaking the Bully-Victim-Bystander Cycle Tool Kit schools need to adapt a comprehensive bully prevention/pro-upstander model that supports the following overlapping instructional and school wide improvement goals:
- Awareness and ongoing attention to the overt and subtle manifestations of harassment, meanness and bully-victim-bystander behavior through school-wide as well as classroom (and morning meeting or Advisory based) meetings.
- Promote the skills, knowledge and dispositions that support people becoming effective upstanders and in doing so, transforming the culture of the school from a culture of bystanders (active or passive) to upstanders: socially responsible students and adults who (directly or indirectly) say “no” to bully-victim behavior.
- Develop even more effective parent-educator-mental health partnerships that support adults recognizing students who chonricaly ‘fall into’ the role of bully and/or victim and insuring that the underlying causes of this behvior is helpfully addressed.
On a daily basis in schools across America, bystander behavior is enabling bully-victim behavior to occur. When we transform K-12 schools from a culture of student and adult bystanders into a community where everyone is attuned to the importance of promoting upstander behavior, we will significantly reduce bully-victim behavior. Now is the time to work together to make a difference.
BullyBust: Promoting a Community of Upstanders represents a growing set of tools and guidelines to support you and your students becoming upstanders in creating positive school climates where students can grow and succeed. BullyBust provides one essential component for a comprehensive, schoolwide effort that can and will prevent bully-victim behavior and promote upstander behavior.