1. Stop bullying on the spot

Take these steps:

  • Intervene immediately. It is okay to get another adult to help.
  • Separate the children involved.
  • Make sure that everyone is safe.
  • Meet any immediate medical or mental health needs.
  • Stay calm and model respectful behavior. Reassure the children involved, including bystanders.

Avoid these common mistakes:

  • Do not ignore it. Do not think children can work it out without adult help.  
  • Do not immediately try to sort out the facts.  
  • Do not force other children to say publicly what they saw.
  • Do not question the children involved in front of other children.
  • Do not talk to the children involved together—talk to them only separately.
  • Do not make the children involved apologize or patch up relations on the spot.

Get police help or medical attention immediately if:

  • A weapon is involved.
  • There is serious bodily harm/sexual abuse or there are threats of serious physical injury.
  • There are threats of hate-motivated violence, such as racism or homophobia or anyone accused of an illegal act such as robbery or extortion.

2. Find out what happened

Get the facts:

  • Separate all of the involved students.
  • Get the story from several sources, both adults and students.
  • Listen without blaming.
  • Do not call the act “bullying” while you are trying to understand what happened.

Determine if it is bullying:

  • What is the history between the students involved? Have there been past conflicts?
  • Is there a power imbalance? Remember that imbalance is not limited to physical strength. It is sometimes not easily recognized. If the targeted student feels like there is a power imbalance, there probably is.
  • Has this happened before? Is the student worried that it will happen again?
  • Have the students dated? There are special responses for teen dating violence.
  • Are any of the students involved in a gang? Gang violence has different interventions.

3. Support ALL students involved

Support the students who are bullied:

  • Listen to and focus on the student.
  • Assure the student that bullying is not his or her fault.
  • Know that students who are bullied may struggle with talking about it.
  • Give advice about what to do.
  • Work together to resolve the situation and protect the bullied student.
  • Be persistent.
  • Follow up.

Address the one who bullied:

  • Make sure the student knows what the problem behavior is.
  • Show students that bullying is taken seriously. You may use consequences.
  • Work with the student to understand the reasons why he or she is bullied.
  • Involve the student who bullied in making amends or repairing the situation.
  • Avoid strategies that do not work or have negative consequences.
  • Follow up. 

Support bystanders who witness bullying by suggesting to:

  • Spend time with the students being bullied at school. Talk with them, sit with them at lunch, or play with them at recess.
  • Listen to them.
  • Call, at home, the student being bullied to offer encouragement and give advice.
  • Tell an adult who you trust, like your teacher or coach.
  • Set a good example. Do not bully others.
  • Send a text message or at a later time go up to the student who was being bullied and say, “That wasn’t cool” and “I’m here for you.”
  • Help the student being bullied get away from the situation.
  • Help the student being bullied tell an adult.
  • Take away the audience by choosing not to watch and walk away.
  • Be kind at another time to the student being bullied.
  • Tell the student being bullied that you do not like the bullying and ask if you can do anything to help.
  • Tell the student doing the bullying that you do not like it and to stop doing it (but only if it feels safe to do so).
  • Distract the student doing the bullying or offer an escape for the student being bullied by saying something like, “Mr. Smith needs to see you right now” or “Come on, we need you for our game” (but only if it feels safe to do so).
  • Do not combat violence with violence. It takes a lot of courage for someone to step up on behalf of a bullied student. Do not, however, use insults or physical violence to defend the student being bullied. Now is not the time to show off. You will most likely only make it more difficult for the student.
  • Do not get discouraged if you have already talked to the teachers and nothing happened. Keep trying. Teachers and other school authorities will respond if they find out that the bullying is becoming a recurring problem. Try talking to other teachers and counselors so that you can get more people involved in trying to stop the situation.
  • If you feel that this is none of your business, put yourself in the shoes of the student being bullied. Bullying can cause severe anxiety, depression, anger, and frustration and can turn the bullied student’s life into a nightmare. You would not want to feel that way.
  • Look for opportunities to contribute to the anti-bullying culture of your school through creating posters, stories, or films. 

*** If the one bullying is still enraged, you first need to calm him/her down. This is appropriate when no weapon in present. If the student has a weapon, you simply need to cooperate.