How To Stop Or Confront Bullying at School
Last updated March 2, 2022
Almost everyone has come across a bully in one form or another, and it’s important to not only know what to do when you’re a victim of bullying, but how to intervene when you see someone else being bullied. Unfortunately, bullying happens at every age - to kids, teens, and adults. Because bullying isn’t a thing that people outgrow, it’s important to know how to identify, safely respond to, and prevent bullying at school. Below, we’ll outline ways to safely help identify, prevent, and confront bullying and even change bully behavior when you see or experience it.
Why do people become or behave like bullies?
Everyone, even bullies, have their own issues, stressors, and home environments that cause them to act out in different ways. There is no one standard profile of a bully - anyone from any kind of background can become a bully. In some cases, bullies are acting out of insecurity or low self-esteem, or replicating bad behavior they’ve experienced. Some want to feel a sense of power over others, or they receive validation from peers when they bully. While this shouldn’t excuse a bully of their actions, knowing that context can help you better understand the reasons for their behavior.
If you see a bully committing a crime, or if someone is in immediate risk of harm - call 911.
Do not hesitate to report harmful, violent, or criminal behavior to the police. Bullying, in many cases and states, is actually illegal. Try to document and report bullying as quickly and thoroughly as possible. This includes cyberbullying.
If someone is feeling helpless, distraught, or contemplating suicide - be there for them, and put them in touch with life-saving resources like the crisis hotline.
The crisis hotline is 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). We recommend saving that number, using it if you need to, and sharing it with others who need it. The crisis hotline is reachable via call or text, available 24 hours, and staffed by trained, loving volunteers who are ready to talk. Here is a full list of free mental-health resources for young people.
Pay attention to the signs that someone might be being bullied and check-in.
Sudden shyness, appearing sad or anxious, and difficulty taking care of themselves or their responsibilities can all be indicators of bullying. Even if it feels awkward, checking in with people around you and paying attention to signs is a critical part of proactively identifying and preventing bullying.
If your school is not appropriately intervening in cases where bullying is happening:
Google the contact info for your school’s superintendent (their number and email should be public), or report it to your state’s Department of Education. It’s important to diligently document and report bullying until something is done to prevent it.
What About Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is an increasingly common form of bullying that includes sending, sharing, or posting negative or harmful content about someone else. Cyberbullying happens in the online and digital space - for example, through text, email, social media, online gaming, chat rooms, message boards, and more. It can occur during and outside of school, and is often less obviously noticeable than in-person bullying. Here’s how to stop it:
Cyberbullying can occur in isolated one-on-one text or DM conversations. Check-in with your friends if they seem down, or you notice signs that someone else’s actions might be negatively affecting them.
Almost everyone has a phone and access to the internet. As a result, anyone could be having a private conversation that friends, family, teachers, etc. have no way of knowing about. It’s important, living within this context, to check-in with people who you see constantly on their phone, anxiously texting often, or showing signs that they’re distraught about something.
Bullying commonly occurs on public social media forums. Often in mentions, or comments on posts. It’s important to document and report any of these forms of cyberbullying.
If you see someone being bullied on social media, or you experience it, take screenshots, or find a way to record and document the bullying. Having a record of bullying is critical when you report it to authorities, or school staff.
Like in-person bullying, cyberbullying is often played off by bullies as “just a joke”.
Being mean or toxic is often veiled as a form of humor. The bully making the joke might find it funny, but the person on the receiving end could be deeply negatively affected. If you see someone receiving mean or toxic comments or messages - check-in with them to see how they feel about it and document and report this behavior if it’s warranted.