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General guidelines for intervening in bullying

Intervene immediately to stop the bullying. If safe to do so, stand between the child(ren) who bullied and those who were bullied, blocking eye contact between them if possible. Don't immediately ask about the reason for the bullying or try to sort out the facts. Bullies tend to be very skilled at manipulating these types of discussions.

***Note, if the bullying involves serious physical assault, particularly among adolescents, do not place yourself in the middle of the assault. You need to get help from other staff and/or security. Make your presence known verbally and physically and intervene only when you feel it is safe to do so. Often students will respond to a short, clear and firm command to stop. If you know the assaulter's name(s), use it. Also, disperse other students in such cases of violence.

  • Identify the bullying behavior that you saw/heard and let students know that bullying is unacceptable and against school rules. (e.g., “That was bullying. I won't allow students to push each other that way.” or “Calling someone names is bullying. It's against our school rules.”)
  • Support the bullied child in a way that allows him/her to regain self-control and to feel supported and safe from retaliation. Make a point to see the child later in private, but don't ask the child to explain what happened at the time of the incident. This puts the victim on the spot, a position that they may experience as threatening rather than supportive. Let the child's teacher(s) know what happened to provide additional support and protection.
  • Reiterate school rules to the bully or bullies and, after making sure that the victim is okay, pull the bullies aside and or take them to the principal to impose consequences. Engaging the bully, particularly adolescent bullies, in front of peers may enhance the bully's status and power or lead to further aggression.
  • Do not attempt to mediate between the bully and the victim. Bullying involves an imbalance of power; it is not a difference of opinion. Bullies may use the mediation process to avoid responsibility and to persuade the targeted child that he/she was somehow at fault for the attack.
  • Make bystanders aware of the consequences of the bullying behavior. Reiterate the school's policy of zero tolerance toward bullying.
  • Phone the parents of both the bully and the victim and try to resolve the problems as soon as possible, including referrals to counseling when appropriate. Note: except under special and justified circumstances, it is generally not helpful for the parents of bullies and victims to meet to solve the problem together.