Stop Bullying—Start Now

Intervention takes boldness and courage, but it can be done

If you want your school to be a safer and friendlier place, it’s up to you to do something to stop bullying—starting right now. The formula is STOP: Support, Tell, Options, Prevention.

Stan Davis has been working with teenagers for over forty years. During that time, he has done a ton of research and written several books on bullying behavior and the kids involved in it. His website,, has some excellent insights and information on handling it.

“Getting support includes asking for help from parents or guardians, other students, or adults at school. If you ask for help and the person you ask won’t help you or says you are “tattling,” ask someone else until you find someone who can either stop the behavior, or at least support and encourage you.”

But support goes even further. If you’re not the one being hurt, you can position yourself to support someone who is. Saying something like, “Wow, people can be mean sometimes, I don’t like what they did either,”* can remove the isolation and strengthen a kid who is being picked on, and thus make them less vulnerable to future bullying.

There is always a place for talking—to someone who can help you and also directly addressing someone who is mistreating you.

“Don’t keep someone else’s mean behavior toward you a secret,” says Davis. “Get help when someone bothers you. Even if the person you seek help from can’t stop the behavior, they can help you see that you are not at fault, that you have strengths, and that mean behavior doesn’t have to ruin your life.”

Addressing someone who is hurting you is tricky, but you do have to give it a shot, because it just might work.

Kyle, an eighth grader, was being ‘bumped’ by another student in the hallways, but he kept quiet, in the hopes that it would stop—it didn’t. Ignoring bullying is usually a sure-fire way to ensure that the aggressor ups his ante, and that’s what happened.Soon the bumping turned into shoving, and eventually escalated to the point that Kyle was being slammed into lockers and walls.

“That’s when I told my mother, and she contacted a school administrator—without mentioning any names—and he suggested I tell the other student, ‘I don’t like what you’re doing so knock it off,’ ” the student said. “Maybe because he was just trying to see what he could get away with or because I talked to him in public, but it worked and he quit bothering me.”

Kids who hurt other kids can be manipulative and too often they make the excuse, “I didn’t know I was hurting him.” Don’t leave any room for their excuses—be courageous and tell them to stop.

You can even intervene when someone is talking mean to or about someone. Saying something like, “That may be your opinion, but it is not what I know,” acknowledges a person’s right to an opinion but diffuses the situation by suggesting that theirs may not be the only one.

What you do in a bullying situation is your choice. If you’re seeing bullying behavior, you can choose to talk to the players, support those being hurt, or tell an adult. If you’re being bullied in any way, you can choose to speak up and ask for support. If you’re bullying someone, understand that you are choosing anti-social and unkind behavior, which may even be illegal in your state, and it is within your power to choose to behave differently. Get some support or talk to someone you trust who can help you understand your behavior. You have options other than to stand by and watch or take abuse from someone else—choose to exercise those options!

Prevention may be better than cure, but when it comes to bullying we clearly need to do both. It’s like stopping a flood in your house: you have to turn off the water as well as mop up the mess. Adults are intervening as much as they can, but you’re in the hallways, the cafeteria, and the school bus, and you’re in the best position to prevent bullying behavior before it gets out of control.

An eighth grader in New York did just that, “A girl was being cornered at her locker by a few other girls who were bullying and scaring her. I went up to one of the bullies and started a conversation. When I did this, the girl being bullied slowly left the situation.”* Intervention takes boldness and courage, but it can be done.

Your choices can influence others, and you can stop something before it starts or goes viral. You have the power stop bullying. Start now!

* Safe School Ambassadors, Rick Phillips, John Linney, Chris Pack

If you need help or support, share in the comments below and we’ll hook you up. Got a success story from trying something from this post? Let us know!

The Beginning of The End

Thank you for jumping on The Bully Train. It’s gonna be a wild ride that is as much about the journey as the destination.

I’m not so idealistic as to think that one person can stop a high-speed train that has taken on a life of its own, but I do think a bunch of us can slow it down so that eventually it will come to a halt. If more of us pull together and pull down on the break in the car they’re in, the bully train will slow down, and with effort and determination and strength, come to a complete stop. But we have to start somewhere—here—to begin putting an end to bullying.

Let’s face it, we have evidence of bullying from the beginning of recorded history. True, past generations probably just had better manners than we do now, as we let it all hang out in the hallways and on Instagram without a worry about retaliation.

But here’s the rub: what we do and say does have consequences, and you don’t have to believe it to make it true. It’s like gravity: whether you believe it or not, you’ll still hit the ground if you jump out of a second-floor window. So, maybe you don’t feel the kick in the butt today when you kicked someone else in his pants, but it’s coming. Maybe not this week or next, but sometime you’re going to reap what you sow. Not standing up for someone else when they need it? Down the line you will need support, and you’d paid it forward when you had the chance. It’s about karma.

See how I did that? It’s nearly impossible to talk about the beginning without thinking about the end. So as you go into this 2012-2013 school year, begin with the end in mind. How do you want to look back on the year? As the one you got the crap beaten out of you? The year you got expelled for bullying behavior you didn’t think you needed to stop? Well if not, what are you going to do to make sure these things don’t happen? (And don’t even think about saying, “I just won’t get caught.” Remember what I said about karma?)

You know, it takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown. In the same way, it takes less energy to make someone’s day or life than it does to ruin it. Use your energy and strength wisely—even if it’s just for your own good or karma.

Good luck with this new school year, and remember to keep the end in mind!