No More Bystanders = No More Bullies: Activating Action in Educational Professionals


Shona Anderson

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    Preface: Rationale for Writing This Book

    When I first started to examine the idea of bullying in schools, I started by looking in schools. I was sitting in one of the monthly principal meetings, barely paying attention. Two of the board presenters were giving a full-day “death by PowerPoint” presentation, and all I was really thinking about was what type of muffins would be served at break. The presentation was not in itself memorable, nor was it what started me really looking at bullying. What was memorable was one of the statistics that was mentioned in passing.

    The presenters talked about a study by Rona Atlas, from York University; Debra Craig, who was also working out of York University; and Wendy Pepler from Queen's University conducted in the late 1990s. Atlas, Craig, and Pepler undertook a qualitative examination of bullying in schools. They used naturalist observations to examine peer intervention in schoolyard bullying episodes. Starting with student-completed questionnaires and following up with longitudinal observations of the subjects, their observations originally focused on peer interventions and the potential role of gender differences. What they discovered through their observations with regard to educator intervention is what really caught my attention. Their observations indicated that teachers only intervened in 14 percent of classroom bullying episodes and 4 percent of playground episodes. To me this was mind-blowing.

    I wasn't overly surprised by the data they collected about the playground. Bullying is very much an insidious thing that exists in hidden corners, and on most schoolyards there are many hidden corners. It was the data regarding classrooms that offended my sensibilities. My mind began to race back and go over my days in the classroom. Was it possible that I missed what was going on right in front of me? I immediately convinced myself that if they had been watching my classes, their data would have been different. I began to make up the story of how horrible and incompetent the teacher being observed must have been. That was it: they must have picked a horrible teacher to observe. I couldn't reconcile the idea that bullying would take place in my classroom with my students, the students whom I knew inside and out. While one part of my brain tried to console my conscience, the other part was asking how I could be oblivious to bullying happening right in my own classroom. The figure 14 percent seemed ludicrously impossible. It was my shock at the statistics that jarred me into really thinking about bullying and, specifically, the role that I played as a teacher.

    I started off still wanting to disprove the research and questioning how it could be right. I began thinking back over all the classes that I had taught and wondering what the researchers would have found if they had been observing me. I wondered if the researchers had overreacted to incidents that were not really bullying. My questions sprang from my doubts, but as I dug into the research, I soon found that the methodology was sound. Craig, Pepler, and Atlas (2000) had a good-size sample group: 616, 762, and 535, respectively, in each of the three years of the study in two different schools with students in a variety of ages ranging from 6 to 12. They had 125 hours of playground observation and audio/visual recordings of all of the interactions. They also had a three-stage system to identify bullying acts. Their research was sound, but the teacher in me desperately wanted it to be wrong. However, the more I probed, the more I found that it wasn't.

    As I Googled my way through the Internet, I quickly found that I was not the only person to look at educator or teacher intervention in bullying episodes. Study after study kept taking me back to the same place. Studies of Toronto schools found that a bullying act occurs every seven seconds but teachers were only aware of 4 percent of the incidents (Craig et al., 2000). Each time I read a statistic, I put myself in the place of the teacher being observed and really struggled with the idea that I missed things. I knew that I would never intentionally let a student in my class be bullied. I knew that my friends and colleagues would not deliberately ignore a student being mistreated. The disconnect between knowing that educators genuinely care about the students in their classes and yet are so unaware of things that are occurring in their classrooms and the school at large became the starting point for my own foray into educational research. As I examined the idea of educational professionals as bystanders in bullying episodes, I worked in conjunction with Charles Sturt University in Australia and the Bluewater District School Board in Ontario, Canada.

    My research brought me to the same end point all the other researchers had arrived at. I confirmed for myself that, as educators, we are still woefully unaware of the interactions among our students (see Resource A for my 2008 article presenting this research and Resource B for the survey instrument I used). What I didn't discover was an understanding of why, a real understanding of why the data said one thing while I could not imagine a teacher ignoring a student in need or a student being mistreated. I was left with this question: How can caring adults, dedicated to children and young people, not see what is right in front of them? This book is my attempt to unravel this question.

    The Central Purpose of the Book

    This book is designed to provide administrators with an explanation and understanding of the bystander effect through the use of narrative and research data. I have gone beyond the field of education to draw ideas from the social sciences. The narratives are either personal anecdotes or recountings of social science research or studies that illustrate the larger context of bystanderism.

    The content of the book is a balance between the “broad brush” of theory with applicable hands-on activities, the latter included at the end of each chapter. The activities are designed to help administrators introduce the action items during their staff meetings or divisional meetings and include warm-up, main, exit, extension, and follow-up activities. The activities are created with the purpose of removing the attitudinal and structural barriers that cause educational professionals to be bystanders rather than interveners. They are written to reflect good pedagogical practice and incorporate a variety of teaching styles and group activities.

    The warm-up section of each activity is designed to start conversations among staff members by having them either complete part of a survey or engage in a focused discussion. The main activities are generally more interactive and use different group work techniques. The exit activities are reflective and allow individuals to think deeply about what they have learned and how they will change their practice. The follow-up activities are designed to be used by a small group of educational professionals who would be responsible for reviewing the exit activity information. Ideally, each school would create a “safe schools team” with representatives from all stakeholders in the school to use the follow-up activities effectively. A Safe Schools Team, along the lines of those used in Ontario, is the ideal, as it helps to diffuse responsibility for bullying prevention from being exclusively that of the school administrators to a shared responsibility of all staff members.

    The Approach of the Book

    The book is designed to be used in one of two ways, depending on the needs of the reader.

    • It can be read sequentially in the traditional cover-to-cover manner.
    • Since no two schools or readers are at the same point, readers can also use the “pulse check” at the end of the introduction to allow them to differentiate their reading based on their own needs. The questions in the pulse check will allow the reader to jump to the section that targets the weaknesses on which they want to focus.

    While the book is a cohesive unit and each idea and activity links to the whole in a sequential manner, it is also written in a way to allow each chapter to stand alone or to be used in a nonsequential manner if doing so better suits the needs of the reader.

    As you read this book, you will be guided by a Continuum to Action. This Continuum to Action will guide your learning through three phases:

    • Pre-bystanderism
    • Decision making
    • Post-bystanderism

    The three phases of the Continuum to Action, which are subdivided into seven key elements, provide the framework for this book.

    Special Features

    This book contains many different special features, which are woven into each chapter. The special features are designed to be catalysts for thinking, discussion, and—most importantly—action.

    Pulse Check in the Introduction

    The purpose of the “pulse check” is to allow readers to differentiate the text to meet their particular needs. The book is designed to follow the continuum sequentially; however, each section can be used in a standalone manner to target the immediate learning need of the reader.

    Action Items

    The purpose of the action items is to allow readers to engage their learning in action through a preplanned and scripted activity. The action items are designed to model good teaching pedagogy to allow school administrators to use them, as is, during a staff meeting as a learning activity for the entire staff. Each action section includes a warm-up activity, the main activity with extensions and variations, an exit activity, and follow-up actions. They incorporate good teaching strategies with different elements of group work to help facilitate peer-to-peer learning and ownership of the understandings. While the activities need to be coordinated, presumably by the school administrator, they are not “lessons” to be delivered. Rather, they are opportunities to facilitate discussions to improve the understanding of everyone. Again each part of the action item can stand alone to accommodate the time constraints of busy school life. Following are the action items:

    • Fact or Myth?
    • Identify Hot Spots
    • Dotmocracy
    • Math, Math, and Even More Math
    • Super Supervision
    • A Common Language
    • Character Counts
    • Communication 101
    Reflection Points and Guiding Questions in Each Chapter

    The reflection points and guiding questions throughout the chapters are designed to provoke the readers' thinking and personal reflections as to their own roles in the bystander cycle. These points can also be used as guiding questions and discussion points for small groups or a book study group.

    Case Studies

    Case studies at the end of every chapter are designed to provoke self-reflection and discussion. They vary in length and depth of detail and at times purposely use stereotypical description of people or scenarios. The students/adults/situations in the case studies are composites of several different students/adults/situations, and all of the names have been changed. The purpose of the case studies is to help educational professionals think through scenarios so that when they encounter them in reality, they have prethought their actions.

    This book is unlike the myriad of other books on bullying because it focuses on an important paradigm shift. Through reading the theories and research, the case studies and narratives, you will begin to shift your thinking about how to address bullying from focusing exclusively on the students in your school to include an intentional, purposeful, and transparent focus on educational professionals. This book will help you

    • develop a deeper understanding of the elements of bystanderism in educational professionals through framing the ideas in the larger realm of social sciences.
    • provide you with tangible actions that are designed to address the seven stages of the bystander decision-making cycle for schools. Each chapter focuses on different aspects of bystanderism and ends with an action activity.
    • broaden your thinking through case studies and self-reflection prompts included in every chapter.

    It is important to note that this book is not a panacea and that there is no “one size fits all” answer when it comes to bullying and bystanderism. The self-reflections, the case studies, and the activities do not come with an answer key because there is no “correct” answer. More important than the answer is the thinking. The self-reflections are designed to provoke some self-analysis and conversations among the educational professionals in each school.


    This book came about as a result of a combination of timing, luck, and sleep deprivation. The arrival of my twins changed my world in so many ways I can't even remember life before January 18, 2008. One of the biggest changes, along with the fact that I can now do most things in life while holding two kids, was the lack of sleep that comes with twins. For months I don't remember sleeping. I must have slept, but I don't remember it. I do remember 18 bottles and 18 diaper changes every day for what seemed like forever. I also remember my mom being there and finally understanding her in a way that I never had before. It was somewhere into the second or third month of feedings and changes every two to three hours that I was sitting in my sunroom, barely conscious, with a baby in both arms, watching television and hoping that one or both of them would fall asleep again, that luck and timing happened.

    By sheer luck I had turned the television onto CBC, and The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos was just coming on. At the time it was not a show that I ever watched, although now I try to catch it whenever I can. One of his guests that day was Malcolm Gladwell; I had never heard of him, but now I am obsessed with his writing. The luck of being awake at 4:00 A.M. and watching a show that I never watched to hear an author whom I had never heard of speak about his new book was a great twist of fate.

    I was too tired to really understand the depth of Gladwell, and I'm not certain even when I'm well rested and fully awake that my mind can keep up with him, but I tucked away his name and the title Outliers. Months later the twins began sleeping a bit better, and I began to manage thoughts that went beyond sheer survival. I listened to Outliers, followed by The Tipping Point and Blink. I was blown away by each book, and for the first time I really began to think outside the narrow confines of education.

    As a result the acknowledgment for the inspiration for this book goes to four people, two of whom I know and two of whom I've never met. Zoe and Ewan were the catalyst, George Stroumboulopoulos was the link, and Malcolm Gladwell was the intellectual trigger.

    In addition, some very important people supported me in making my ideas reality. First and foremost, my parents have been constant, positive guiding influences in my life. I never really understood the depth of their commitment until I had the privilege of watching them with their grandchildren. Grandma Bel and Papa are full-time, hands-on grandparents, and it is through their support that I am able to balance the demands of working full-time and being a parent. My in-laws are also phenomenally loving grandparents who take amazing care of my twins. My husband, despite being a workaholic himself, finds time to listen to my rants, gives our twins baths, and puts up with my awful taste in television shows. My friends have also been a constant support system and inspiration. They keep me grounded and encourage me to reach for the stars at the same time.

    In my professional life I have been lucky enough to work with some terrific educators who have mentored my growth both as a professional and as a person. The Bluewater District School Board has provided me with many learning opportunities. The Ontario Principals' Council, specifically Joanne Robinson, has also supported my work over the past four years.

    Many of the fabulous things in my life also could not have happened without the work of some incredible doctors. My diagnosis with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis more than ten years ago was life changing. Since then Dr. Denberg, Dr. Pillersdorf, and Dr. Wasserman of McMaster Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario, have been instrumental in me living a normal life. McMaster's high-risk obstetrics clinic also monitored my pregnancy and ensured that both my twins arrived healthy and happy.

    The writing of this book has been a fascinating experience beyond anything I imagined it would be. I have developed as a writer and been pushed to think at a level that I did not realize that I could. My editor, Deb Stollenwerk, has been an incredibly positive guide throughout the entire process. Her feedback and thoughts have been invaluable.

    Publisher's Acknowledgments

    Corwin gratefully acknowledges the comments and editorial insight from the following individuals:

    • Melanie Mares, Academic Coach
    • Lowndes Middle School
    • Valdosta, GA
    • Janice Nicholls, Principal
    • Spruce Ridge Community School
    • Bluewater District School Board
    • Durham, Ontario
    • Chris Sarellas, Principal
    • Vaughan Secondary School
    • Thornhill, Ontario, Canada
    • Kim E. Vogel, Principal
    • Parkdale Elementary School
    • Parkdale, OR

    About the Author

    Shona Anderson has been an educator since 1996. She started her teaching career with the Upper Grand District School Board as a core French teacher. She began taking Additional Qualifications courses and holds a double specialization in the teaching of French as a Second Language and Computers in the Classroom. Her work as both an English teacher and a French teacher led her to administration in 2003 for the Bluewater District School Board. Working in schools as both an administrator and a teacher has been a rewarding experience, allowing Shona to learn from children and adults alike. Shona is also a part-time faculty member of the University of Western Ontario.

    Shona holds a BA in English from the University of Guelph and a Post Graduate Certificate in Education in secondary education from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland. Shona also completed her Master of Education through Charles Sturt University in Australia with a focus on educational research in the area of bullying. Her research was supported by the Ontario Principals' Council (OPC), and she has both written for its publication, called the Register, and presented at the annual Odyssey conference. Shona has also published an action manual for administrators called Creating a Culture of Action for OPC.

    Outside of school Shona is a very busy mother of two-year-old twins, Zoe and Ewan. Shona is a self-professed reality television junkie.

    Please visit for more information regarding the author, as well as additional resources and case studies.


    To Zoe and Ewan

    I'll love you forever. I'll like you for always.

    As long as I'm living my babies you'll be.

    —Robert Munsch, 1995


  • Final Thoughts

    Change is hard, and figuring out how to deal with bullying differently is a process. It requires change on an individual, a systemic, and a societal level. This can be an overwhelming prospect, so this book is designed to address the small steps that we can take to move as individuals, as a system, and as a society along the Continuum to Action.

    To move from inaction to action can require different motivation and thinking for every individual. Some educational professionals will move sequentially, while others may move back and forth as they grow in their understanding. The three areas on the continuum are guidelines to identify diagnostically your current status, to assess your progress formatively, and to determine summatively your success as an intervener.

    To be able to notice that something unusual is going on, do the following:

    • Reflect on your own perceptions to be sure that your are not allowing your own biases to influence your actions.
    • Be present. In the routine and rush of the day, it is easy to slip into “autopilot.” Change your timing and pathways around the school and proactively be present in your interactions throughout the day.

    To make the rapid decisions needed to act in the moment, do the following:

    • Prethink about where your line in the sand is. Self-reflection around what you value and what behaviors you expect will make it easier to determine how you will react when they are not occurring.
    • Understand your responsibilities with regard to the students in your class and the students in the school as a whole.
    • Develop a clear understanding of the responsibility to supervise students and prethink clear statements that you can use to communicate with students, peers, and parents.
    • Understand the language of bullying and the language of character education.

    To complete the cycle of intervention, do the following:

    • Close the communication gap by ensuring that everyone involved in the situation has had a chance to be heard and has had his or her needs addressed clearly.
    • Don't forget to check in with the students involved in the near future to ensure that the issue is resolved and that everyone continues to feel safe.

    Again, addressing bullying and bystanderism is a long and involved process. Therefore, a quick jump-start is great way to begin to feel a sense of progress right away. So I'm ending this book with something you can start immediately—something you can try the next time you encounter a bullying episode.

    Traditionally, when we as educators observe a bullying interaction, we have private conversations with everyone involved and try to protect everyone's confidentiality. This is not working. Our future adults are not seeing what an active intervention looks like. Intervention is not being modeled for them, and as a result they are not learning how to intervene and stop bullying. We teach our students every day through our words and our actions. They watch everything we do, so we need to model for them how to be an active intervener and how to speak up for themselves and others.

    Being an active intervener is not easy the first time you speak out. Even when you know that you're right, and that what you saw was wrong, it is hard to be public in your intervention. But the three minutes outlined below are life changing, both for you and for all the students around you.

    Resource A: Creating a Culture of Action: Breaking the Bystander Cycle: Moving Education Professionals from Bystander to Intervener1

    “It's not hatred that kills people, it is indifference.”

    —Elie Wiesel

    While bullying has been an acknowledged problem in schools for the past 30 years, it has become an epidemic in the last decade. Research on the topic has expanded from simply examining the relationship between the bully and the victim to investigating the role of the school community in dealing with this societal issue. Definitions around who and what defines a bully and a victim have also changed. The identification of a third role, that of bystander, has also evolved from past study findings. This particular concept is so recent that it has not yet developed further than defining the bystander as simply the peer group.

    The ramifications of bullying can be devastating for all involved. The bully, the bullied, and the bystander, regardless of their age, race, or social status, are all affected. Schools throughout Canada are implementing antibullying programs in an attempt to address the issue. Nevertheless, despite the implementation of programs such as Tribes and LionsQuest, the development of character education programs, the introduction and recent revisions of the Safe Schools Act (2007), and increased public awareness, bullying in schools has not yet been eradicated.

    The research project upon which this article is based follows the release of statistics from research conducted by Craig, Pepler, and Atlas (2000). Their findings were some of the first to identify education professionals as “bystanders,” whether consciously or subconsciously so. Their observations indicated that teachers intervene in only 14 percent of classroom bullying episodes and 4 percent of playground episodes. These numbers were staggering, leading me to wonder how this could be possible. Former and current studies have consistently indicated that in order to prevent bullying, all stakeholders, including the bystander, need to be engaged.

    Bystander behavior has become a focal point for a number of programs focused on breaking the bullying cycle (Jeffrey, Miller, & Linn, 2002). Moreover, the term bystander needs to be redefined to include not only peer groups but anyone—including education professionals—who remains passive when observing an act of bullying. The purpose of this study was to examine how underlying attitudes and beliefs can directly influence the role an education professional plays in bullying episodes within the school.

    The Science and the Theory
    Research Objectives

    This project began with a desire to explore bullying from a less common perspective and delve more deeply into the ideas Craig et al. (2000) brought forward regarding the roles of teachers with respect to bullying. Their qualitative findings identified the educator as a potential bystander in both the classroom and the schoolyard, adding yet another layer to the already complex issue of bullying in schools. Their findings, however, did not address the question of “why” such a conclusion was drawn. This project examined “why” through a set of specific research objectives. My goal was to determine what attitudinal and structural barriers keep education professionals within the bystander role.

    Responses were further examined to determine if the bystander role was impacted by factors such as gender, years of experience, or current teaching division. The process included reviewing current literature; creating, analyzing, and modifying a pilot survey; and analyzing the responses of the survey completed by staff in the Bluewater District School Board, Ontario, Canada. The most important objective was to recommend a practical plan to increase the intervention of educators in bullying episodes.

    As part of the project, specific research objectives were carried out. These included the following elements:

    • Reviewing published literature regarding bullying to describe the evolution of bullying and the role of educators
    • Analyzing data collected during the pilot survey to eliminate any ambiguous, negative, or unduly leading statements
    • Studying data from participants in the Bluewater District School Board to gain an understanding of educators' perceptions of bullying and to determine what barriers exist that prevent active intervention in bullying episodes
    • Determining whether the barriers identified above were affected by gender, years of experience, or current teaching division
    • Recommending practical schemas based on the data and suggesting future topics for research with the goal of improving antibullying programs in Ontario.

    Collection of data began with the creation of a survey questionnaire. The survey was developed in January 2007 by compiling ideas and stylized questions from a variety of previously written surveys (Epp & Epp, 1998; Craig et al., 2000; Hymel, White, & Ishiyama, 2003; Olweus, 1993; Smith, Cousins, & Stewart, 2005). The Bluewater group, acting as our sample, included all school-based employees. All staff members (teachers, education assistants, custodians, office professionals, and administrators) were given the opportunity to participate in the study.

    The outline for the study was explained to the participating principals during the monthly administrators' meeting. Fifty-nine administrators were presented with a project overview and given the opportunity to ask questions. Instructions were provided to the principals regarding their roles, as well as what information needed to be passed on to staff. While participation in the research project was voluntary, the principal researcher and the director of education for the Board encouraged staff to take part. School administrators were also directed to include their office professionals, custodial staff, education assistants, and themselves in the project.

    The survey was available online with a link provided to all staff. All 48 elementary and 11 secondary schools in the Bluewater District School Board participated in the study. The survey took approximately 20 minutes for each participant to complete. The results were automatically available only to me, the primary researcher.

    Questions and Correlations
    Step 1: Noticing That Something Unusual or Inappropriate Is Occurring

    The majority of the survey questions related directly to the first stage of bystander intervention described by Huston, Ruggiero, Conner, and Geis (1981). The first of the five stages is the recognition that something unusual or inappropriate is occurring.

    What became apparent through the survey findings was a general lack of awareness about what occurs in schools on a daily basis and where those incidents physically occur. This lack of knowledge often prevents education professionals from intervening in bullying episodes by stalling the decision-making process.

    Step 2: Deciding If Help Is Needed

    Once a situation has been defined as unacceptable, the next step in the cycle according to Huston et al. (1981) is that the bystander decides whether help is required or if the situation can resolve itself. Several sections of the survey addressed the issue of underlying beliefs with respect to bullying. Underlying beliefs can be both positive and negative. They are the beliefs that a person has developed throughout the duration of his or her lifetime as a result of personal experience or media influence. Such beliefs are internal biases that many adults believe to be truths.

    These underlying beliefs about bullying may influence whether or not the education professional feels that help is warranted in the situation. For example, some people believe that bullying is just a normal part of growing up or that the increase in bullying is a result of increased violence in the media. If, because of their beliefs, they determine that the victim does not require support, school staff will be unable to move from the role of bystander and instead remain stuck at step 2 of the cycle.

    The statistics from the survey revealed that 18 statements could be defined as a truth, as a myth, or as being somewhere in between. For example, when the subjects were asked, “If the victims improved their social skills, they wouldn't be bullied,” 17 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, while 56 percent disagreed and 28 percent strongly disagreed. Whether the statement is truth, myth, or somewhere in between, it became clear that education professionals do not all hold the same beliefs.

    The data showed that, regardless of the statement, some portion of the surveyed population always appears in each of the four (strongly agree, agree, disagree, and strongly disagree) response categories. The diversity of responses occurred in relation to nearly all the statements. This suggests that in any given situation, an education professional may not deem that help is necessary and will therefore not intervene as a result of internal beliefs.

    Step 3: Feeling a Responsibility to Help

    The third step in the decision to intervene in a bullying situation is that the bystander must determine the extent to which he or she has a responsibility to assist (Huston et al., 1981). The data related to this step in the intervention cycle indicated that there were a portion of respondents for each of the response options (never, rarely, sometimes, frequently, always, and not applicable). Given this information, some education professionals do not believe that intervention is their responsibility and, therefore, will not move beyond step 3 to intervene in bullying episodes, instead remaining bystanders.

    Step 4: Having the Ability to Help

    When the bystander does decide to intervene, there must be a determination made as to whether or not he or she possesses the appropriate resources to help the situation (Huston et al., 1981). This step was addressed in several areas of the survey.

    Survey responses indicated that at least a quarter of the education professionals did not feel they possessed the appropriate skills for intervening. As a result, these individuals were not able to move beyond acting as a bystander when witnessing bullying incidents.

    This fourth stage in the decision-making process is perhaps the most challenging. Educators at this stage were able to identify that something abnormal was occurring and that help was required. They understood that they had a responsibility to assist, but they lacked the confidence to do so. As a result, they felt unsafe, unsupported, and victimized and did not feel they had the skills to intervene successfully.

    Step 5: Intervening

    In relation to intervention, survey data indicated that a number of education professionals were unable to do so. Once the problem was recognized, the decision was made that help was required, and the observer believed that he or she had the appropriate skill set, only then could the individual decide whether or not to assist. Unfortunately, at this stage it can become challenging for education professionals to reach a conclusion, since incidents can occur quickly and without warning, offering little time to think. While one can assume that no one who works with children or young adults would purposefully want physical or emotional harm to occur, the fact remains that some education professionals remain bystanders.

    t Test Indications at All Steps

    t tests, which are used to determine whether the means of two groups are statistically different from each other, were used to compare responses based on length of employment, gender, and employment position. While study results were limited to a specific school district, general trending information was produced from these tests. Male and female education professionals responded similarly. Also, the length of employment had no apparent effect on the level of intervention. This result is concerning. It appears to tell us two things: that all of the training and inservices offered to board staff have not improved intervention rates and that recent graduates and new employees are not entering the profession with the necessary skills to address the issue of bullying.

    The t tests further indicated that employment position within schools affects intervention levels in bullying episodes. Custodial staff and office professionals were least likely to intervene in situations or to feel that it was their responsibility to do so.

    Beyond the Science and the Theory

    The data from this study are only useful if they improve the practice of education professionals to enhance student success. The study has highlighted areas for growth at each stage identified in the bystander intervention cycle. Recommendations put forward, based on the highlighted areas for growth, are intended to move beyond theory into practical actions to change practice within schools.

    Since the data indicated a lack of awareness of the prevalence and location of bullying incidents, recommendations for improvement are as follows:

    • Expanded in-faculty teacher training
    • Proactive inclusion of all employee groups in antibullying training and reporting practices
    • Explicit expectations from administrators with regard to supervision standards
    • School self-evaluation exercises to determine bullying “hot spots”

    To address step 2 in the bystander intervention cycle, I recommend the following:

    • Sharing of accurate and up-to-date information with all members of the school community

    To move effectively into the third step, education professionals must understand their responsibility in bullying situations. The following suggestions will support individuals who wish to move from the role of bystander to the role of intervener:

    • The development of clear protocols regarding the reporting of bullying incidents
    • The promotion of a schoolwide behavior rubric, which includes predictable and escalating consequences for behaviors
    • Support, in the form of resources and inservices, and pressure, via clear and consistent expectations and formal processes such as the teacher performance appraisal, from the administrative team, as needed

    Step 4 is perhaps the most difficult stage to move through successfully, as it deals with both the knowledge base of the education professionals as well as their current personal experiences. To support individuals through this stage of the cycle, the following actions are recommended:

    • Clear policies and protocols to protect the rights of the education professional
    • Support and counseling for staff who are victimized

    To make education professionals feel that their intervention efforts have made a positive difference, school leaders need to provide constructive reinforcement.

    Beyond the general recommendations above comes the practicality of implementation and assisted change within our schools. If change does not occur in the school, then it is not a true change. A practical manual, based on the above recommendations, has been produced that focuses on the key indicated areas. Each section is designed to empower the individual and staff members by engaging everyone in the antibullying process. The manual includes warm-up, main, and exit activities, as well as follow-up activities for safe schools committees. There are templates available in the form of black-line masters; variations and extensions of the different activities are included where possible.

    This manual, written for school leaders by a school leader, provides support and guides change for education professionals. I know that no two schools are alike and that what works in one school may not work in another. The schema and suggestions are based on general trending information generated from the study and are meant to act as a starting point for further discussion. School leaders are encouraged to consider these ideas and implement them in their school communities, where appropriate.


    Survey results indicate that education professionals don't always know whether or how to intervene. Different support systems need to be in place at each of the five stages of the bystander intervention cycle to help education professionals make these determinations. Once changes have been put in place, it is important to remember that the process remains cyclical and requires continual reflection and adjustments in order to be successful. The needs of education professionals, as they move through the cycle of intervention, will change over time. Continual instructional updates and supports will be necessary in order to meet the needs of all professionals.

    Bullying must be addressed in a systemic manner; the ramifications of bullying in schools is negative for everyone involved. As the culture of the school becomes affected, so too are all the members within that community. Through a multilayered approach of proactively giving students character education and intervening when bullying does occur, the cycle of bullying can be addressed.

    Committed leaders must actively develop a shared vision with their staff in order to change the status quo, which is no longer acceptable. Understanding the current status with regard to the structural and attitudinal barriers that inhibit education professionals from intervening in bullying episodes is simply the first step to creating change. A workable plan must be developed, communicated, implemented, and revised as necessary to create best practices and, therefore, a better school climate for the entire community.

    To download the manual, Creating a Culture of Action—Breaking the Bystander Cycle: Moving Educational Professionals from Bystander to Intervener, please visit the Ontario Principals' Council website (

    1This article originally appeared in the fall 2008 issue of the OPC Register, 8(3).

    Resource B: Bullying and You: The Perspective of Educational Professionals

    • Read the following statements and indicate whether you strongly agree (SA), agree (A), disagree (D), or strongly disagree (SD).

    • Based on your personal experience and perspective, indicate the extent to which you agree or disagree with each of the following statements: strongly disagree (SD), disagree (D), agree (A), strongly agree (SA), don't know (DK).

    • Based on your personal experience and perspective, indicate how often the various kinds of bullying are brought to your attention: never (N), rarely (R), sometimes (S), frequently (F), always (A).

    • Indicate all the reasons you would not intervene in a bullying situation. (Check all that apply.)
      • ❒ The students are just jockeying for social position.
      • ❒ The students need to be able to resolve problems on their own.
      • ❒ I didn't want to make things worse.
      • ❒ I can't make kids play together and be friends.
      • ❒ I'm not their parent. It's their job.
      • ❒ It was just teasing not bullying.
      • ❒ It wouldn't have made a difference.
      • ❒ I didn't want to get involved.
      • ❒ I didn't know what to do or whom to talk to.
      • ❒ I told the students to talk to the teacher on duty.
      • ❒ The students involved were not in my class.
      • ❒ I was physically afraid to become involved.
      • ❒ I was not aware of the situation.
      • ❒ The students are friends.
      • ❒ I thought if I intervened I would not be supported.
      • ❒ The person being bullied deserved it. They brought it on themselves.
      • ❒ It was just horseplay and fooling around.
      • ❒ I wasn't the person on duty.
      • ❒ The bullying was happening off property.
      • ❒ The bell rang and I didn't have time.
    • During the past month of school, with what frequency has bullying behavior occurred in the following locations: rarely (R), biweekly (BW), weekly (W), daily (D), don't know (DK)?

    • Indicate which of the following are true for you. (Check all that apply.)
      • ❒ I have been verbally bullied by a parent.
      • ❒ I have been physically bullied by a parent.
      • ❒ I have been verbally bullied by a colleague.
      • ❒ I have been physically bullied by a colleague.
      • ❒ I have been verbally bullied by a student.
      • ❒ I have been physically bullied by a student.
      • ❒ I have ignored bullying behavior.
      • ❒ I have verbally bullied a parent.
      • ❒ I have physically bullied a parent.
      • ❒ I have verbally bullied a colleague.
      • ❒ I have physically bullied a colleague.
      • ❒ I have verbally bullied a student.
      • ❒ I have physically bullied a student.
      • ❒ I think my school is safe.
    • Based on your personal experience and perspective, how often do you … [never (N), rarely (R), sometimes (S), frequently (F), always (A), not applicable (N/A)]?

    • What reason(s) do you think other educational professionals (administrators, office professionals, custodians, educational assistants, and teachers) do not intervene when witnessing bullying behaviors? (Check all that apply.)
      • ❒ They didn't know what to do or whom to talk to.
      • ❒ They were not aware of the situation.
      • ❒ They didn't want to get involved.
      • ❒ They weren't the teacher on duty.
      • ❒ It wouldn't have made a difference.
      • ❒ The bullying was happening off property.
      • ❒ It wasn't their job. They weren't the parents.
      • ❒ It was just teasing, not bullying.
      • ❒ They thought the person being bullied deserved it.
      • ❒ They didn't want to make things worse.
      • ❒ The bell rang and they didn't have time.
      • ❒ The students needed to be able to resolve problems on their own.
      • ❒ They thought they would not be supported.
      • ❒ They were physically afraid to intervene.
      • ❒ The students weren't in their class.
    • How often do you observe other educational professionals (administrators, office professionals, custodians, educational assistants, and teachers) … [never (N), rarely (R), sometimes (S), frequently (F), always (A)]?

    • How much antibullying or harassment programming does your school offer …

    • Do you feel comfortable in implementing an antibullying or harassment program?

      □ Yes□ No□ Unsure

    • Do you think your colleagues feel comfortable implementing an antibullying or harassment program?

      □ Yes□ No□ Unsure

    • Do you feel safe in your school?

      □ Yes□ No□ Unsure

    • Do you think your colleagues feel safe in your school?

      □ Yes□ No□ Unsure

    • Do you think students feel safe in your school?

      □ Yes□ No□ Unsure

    • Do you think the public feels safe and welcome when entering your school?

      □ Yes□ No□ Unsure

    Resource C: Definitions of the Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander

    • Physical Bullies
      • ○ Engage in the least sophisticated type of bullying
      • ○ Engage in the most easily identifiable type of bullying
      • ○ May hit, shove, push, kick, spit at, or beat up others
      • ○ May damage or steal someone's property
    • Verbal Bullies
      • ○ Use words to hurt or humiliate another person
      • ○ May engage in name-calling, insulting, and/or constant teasing
    • Social or Relational Bullies
      • ○ Convince their peers to exclude or reject a certain person or people
      • ○ Cut the victims off from their social connections
      • ○ Often also engage in verbal bullying, usually through spreading of rumors and/or gossip
      • ○ Set others up to embarrass them
    • Cyber or Electronic Bullies
      • ○ Engage in one of the newest forms of bullying
      • ○ May send e-mails, text messages, or pictures that threaten to hurt or embarrass someone
      • ○ May use instant message chat systems to spread rumors and reveal secrets
      • ○ Can assume various identities online
      • ○ Can use MySpace and other social networking websites to upload embarrassing photos from locations such as washrooms and change rooms
    • Gender-Based Bullies
      • ○ Engage in exclusion or mistreatment based solely on gender
      • ○ Make sexist comments or jokes
    • Racial/Ethno/Cultural Bullies
      • ○ Treat people in a negative manner because of their culture, their racial or ethnic background, or their skin color
      • ○ Say negative things about someone's culture, racial or ethnic background, or skin color
      • ○ Use derogatory racial terms
      • ○ Tell racist jokes
    • Sexual Bullies
      • ○ Make crude comments or spread rumors about someone's sexual behavior or sexual preferences
      • ○ Touch, grab, pinch, or bump someone in a sexual manner
      • ○ Make sexual gestures
      • ○ Call someone “gay,” “fag,” or “lesbian” to upset and defame
    • Religion-Based Bullies
      • ○ Treat someone in a negative manner because of his or her religious beliefs
      • ○ Make negative comments about someone's religion
    • Reactive Victims
      • ○ Straddle a fence between being a bully and a victim
      • ○ May at first appear to be the victim but often taunt others into reacting and then fight back and claim self-defense
      • ○ Engage in mostly physical acts of bullying
      • ○ Are impulsive and react quickly to intentional and unintentional physical encounters
    • Passive Victims
      • ○ Avoid aggression and confrontation
      • ○ Do not elicit help from peers
      • ○ Cry easily
      • ○ Will not fight back
      • ○ Are not assertive
      • ○ Are anxious in social situations
    • Aggressive Victims (Pepler & Craig, 2000)
      • ○ May behave in ways that may irritate others
      • ○ May tease and taunt others
      • ○ Lack social skills
      • ○ Tend to be aggressive
      • ○ Will often respond to others aggressively
    • Bystander (Coloroso, 2003)
      • ○ Stands idly by when bullying occurs
      • ○ Sometimes ignores the bullying; other times joins in
      • ○ Is not innocent in the bullying cycle
      • ○ Is typically defined as a peer

    Resource D: Leet Speak Dictionary

    Codes Referring to Parents
    • 9—Parents are around
    • KPC—Keeping parents clueless
    • P911—Parent alert
    • PAL—Parents are listening
    • PAW—Parents are watching
    • PIR—Parents in room
    • POS—Parent over shoulder
    Codes Referring to Sex
    • 8—Oral sex
    • 1174—Nude club
    • GNOC—Get naked on cam
    • GYPO—Get your pants off
    • IWSN—I want sex now
    • J/O—Jerking off
    • TDTM—Talk dirty to me
    • FMLTWIA—F*** me like the whore I am
    • DUM—Do you masturbate?
    • DUSL—Do you scream loud?
    • Banana—Code word for “penis”
    • Kitty—Code word for “vagina”
    • MPFB—My personal f*** buddy
    • FB—F*** buddy
    • RUH—Are you horny?
    • I&I—Intercourse and inebriation
    • PRON—Porn
    Locational Codes
    • LMIRL—Let's meet in real life
    • F2F—Face to face
    Hate Codes
    • 182—I hate you
    • ZERG—To gang up someone
    • HUYA—Head up your a**
    • 143—I love you
    • ASL—Age/Sex/Location
    • DOC—Drug of choice

    This is when someone takes over your mobile phone using their Bluetooth and has full access to all of your information. The blue-jacker can text, e-mail, or make calls as you, and all of your stored photos and files are accessible.


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    Corwin: A SAGE Company

    The Corwin logo—a raven striding across an open book—represents the union of courage and learning. Corwin is committed to improving education for all learners by publishing books and other professional development resources for those serving the field of PreK-12 education. By providing practical, hands-on materials, Corwin continues to carry out the promise of its motto: “Helping Educators Do Their Work Better.”

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