How To Stop Or Confront Bullying at School
Last updated January 30, 2023
Almost everyone has come across a bully in one form or another, and it’s important to know what to do when you’re a target of bullying and how to intervene when you see someone else being bullied. Unfortunately, bullying behavior happens at every age - to kids, teens, and adults. Because bullying isn’t usually a thing that people outgrow without support and consistent work, 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 and respond to the world in different ways. There is no one standard profile of a bully - anyone from any kind of background can have bullying behaviors. 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, find a teacher or school staff member.
Do not hesitate to report harmful, violent, or criminal behavior to the school or other authority figures in your life. Let a security guard, resource officer, teacher or school staff member know an act of bullying is taking place. 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 school counselor or a crisis hotline.
The national 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. In addition to this hotline, 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. You can also file a police report if necessary, since in many cases and states bullying is illegal. It’s important to diligently document and report bullying until something is done to prevent it.
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 both during and outside of school, and is often less 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.
Because many young people have access to a computer/phone and internet, it’s possible they could be having a private conversation that friends, family, teachers, etc. have no way of knowing about. Because of this, it’s important to check in with people who you see constantly on their phone, anxiously texting often, or showing signs that they’re distraught about something. This can look like simply asking someone if something is bothering them.
Bullying commonly occurs on public social media platforms, 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 if you experience it, take screenshots, or find a way to record, document and report the bullying. Having a record of the bullying incidents is critical when you notify school staff or authorities in serious cases.
Like in-person bullying, cyberbullying is often played off by those who bully 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.