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Intervening in bullying situations

There is no one right way to intervene in bullying. Though the guidelines and suggestions are drawn from research and best practice, as with all other guidelines and suggestions, teachers must use their own professional judgment to determine which ones are appropriate and helpful for their particular students and situations and how they need to be adapted. The only thing you should not do is ignore it or become immobilized by fear or uncertainty. While it is your responsibility to intervene and put a stop to incidents of bullying and harassment, you will need to decide whether you want to educate the bully and other students publicly or privately.

Educating publicly provides immediate information and support to the victim, provides all students with a model of how to stand against bullying and reassures students that your classroom and/or school is a safe place.

Educating privately allows bullies to “save face,” prevents the target from possible embarrassment and allows more time to explore and discuss issues.

Deciding to educate publicly or privately depends on:

Time and place: How you respond to incidents of bullying/harassment will be different when the incident takes place in the hallways during passing time or in your own classroom. In some cases, “time and place” will allow only for quick, punitive responses. In unstructured settings, such as hallways, play grounds or in large crowds of students, the targeted student(s) may be best served by you stopping the behavior and then speaking to the harasser(s) later, in private. In more structured environments like classrooms, libraries or lunchrooms, you have more time to state the rules and to engage students in some discussion. Again, you will need to consider the needs of the targeted student(s) first and foremost.

Students: How you intervene in bullying will also depend on the ages of the students and on whether the incident is isolated or part of a pattern. Isolated incidents can be dealt with quickly and directly. Incidents with longer histories require more intensive intervention with both the bully and the targeted student.