How to Gain the Confidence of Bystanders

Discover five ways to encourage your school’s bystanders


Bullying thrives when it is not reported. But when a school community contains bystanders who willingly and consistently report bullying, that can drastically improve the school’s climate. Additionally, the frequency of bullying incidents will dramatically decrease when bullying is consistently reported.

However, this type of school environment only occurs when teachers and administrators have gained the confidence of the school’s bystanders by intervening and addressing bullying situations.

The best way to make this happen is to help kids work through their fears about reporting bullying. It is also important to convince them that you will do something about bullying when they do report it. Doing so, leads to a healthier, bullying-free school community. Here are five ways you can gain the confidence of your school’s bystanders.

Keep them out of it. In other words, when a student reports bullying, the last thing you want to do is mention her name to the bully or the victim. In fact, if you mention the person who reported the bullying by name, there is a good change this student will become the next target for bullying. It’s also never a good idea to call in the bystander to discuss the bullying incident and what she witnessed with the bully or the victim present. Again, if you want bystanders to report bullying, you have to make it safe for them to do so.

Take them seriously.

Keep in mind that it takes a lot of courage to report bullying and kids often are very nervous when they come forward. At the top of the list, is anxiety and worry that no one will believe them. Acknowledge what they are telling you and thank them for having the courage to come forward. The goal is to make the reporting process as comfortable as possible so that they will come forward again.

Even if the student’s report is not that serious in the grand scheme of things, it is important to her. So be respectful when a student reports something.

Allow them to report anonymously. Some kids want to avoid the office at all costs. They also fear being labeled a snitch. So many kids remain silent about bullying because they just don’t want to be on the receiving end of name-calling or bullying. As a result, many schools have gone to an anonymous reporting system. Some schools use a simple box placed in a private location where students can leave information about bullying. Meanwhile, other schools have implemented anonymous tip lines and apps that allow students to report bullying anonymously.

Take action. The number one reason kids remain silent about bullying is that they do not think anyone at the school will address it. You need to be very diligent in addressing all bullying situations as quickly as possible. When kids see that something will be done if they report bullying, they will be more likely to step up and say something the next time they witness bullying.

Equip them with skills. Many times kids do not say anything about bullying because they do not know what to do. Be sure your bullying prevention programs contain elements that empower your bystanders. Remember, your bystanders are your largest group in a bullying situation and if you can mobilize this group you will go a long way in preventing bullying at your school. The goal is to create an environment where it is cool to be respectful and kind – a place where bullying is not tolerated.

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