Can You Stand Up to Bullying?

Just one caring adult can make all the difference in the world to a bullied child, research shows. One caring adult can keep them from dropping out of school. One caring adult can even save their life.

NEA is asking you to be that adult.

NEA’s Bully Free: It Starts With Me, a campaign against bullying, which launches today, is asking adults at schools and in communities to take the Bully Free pledge and identify yourself as a caring adult.

When you do so, you agree…

To be identified as a caring adult who pledges to help bullied students… to listen carefully to all students who seek my help and act on their behalf to put an immediate stop to the bullying (and) to work with other caring adults to create a safe learning environment for all the students in my school.

Take the pledge!

“Children who decided to live had at least one caring adult to talk to. They had at least one adult who didn’t tell them they were imagining things. There was one adult who didn’t tell them to ignore it and it would go away (it doesn’t),” recently wrote NEA Vice-President Lily Eskelsen in her blog Lily’s Blackboard.  “They had one adult who said, ‘I believe you. You don’t deserve this. I’m going to try and stop this.’”

Stopping bullying is critical to NEA’s mission of ensuring a quality education for every student. Because when kids are bullied, they can’t learn – and the experience “exacts scars that can last a lifetime,” notes NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. We know that the victims of bullies are more likely to fall behind in classes, miss school, and eventually drop out.  We owe them more that that.

But the problem is wide spread and getting worse as it migrates to increasingly younger grades. A recent survey of Massachusetts third-graders found that 47 percent had been bullied at least once, more than half said they’d been called names or teased in a hurtful way. Especially for students with disabilities, or students who can’t conform to traditional gender expectations, bullying is a too-common experience that pushes students to the very edge.

Bullycide is the word for it.

At the campaign’s website, NEA’s Bully Free: It Starts With Me also provides resources, tip sheets and relevant research to teachers and education support professionals who want to know more about bullying. For example, check out the  “Six Tips for Educators Dealing with Bullying,” or the new “Focus on Women” publication about girls and bullying.

Says Van Roekel: “It is our shared responsibility to make sure every child can attend a safe public school.”

  • Bullying is an offense. There is a victim and an offender in each case. The traditional response schools take is to punish the offender, much like the criminal justice system punishes a criminal offender. This often does little to address the needs of the victim or the offender. The traditional model seems to be based on a math equation that looks like this; x offense = y punsihment. The punishments (expulsion, suspension, etc.) are meant to ‘teach’ the offender to not do wrong, warn potential offenders to not do wrong, and somehow address the needs of the victim. How often is that working out for the victim? How often does it work for the offender or the school? Look at restorative principles that focus on the harms created and identifying the parties responsible for making amends for the harms. Have the offender address these questions; What happened? What were you thinking? What are you thinking now? Who was hurt by your actions, in what ways? Whose responsibility is it to address those harms? How are you going to make things more right? The victim should be asked questions as well. What What did you think when you realized what had happened? What effect has this incident had on you and others? What has been the hardest thing for you? What do you think needs to happen to make things right? These questions can be addressed in a meeting involviong the offender, the victim, their parents, a school official, and a neutral volunteer from the community. Restorative practices look to address the harms and repair them. The harms are not limited to the victim and the offender. Bullying creates harms for the parents, the other students, school staff, and the general community. For more information contact me at
    Tim Johnson

  • Monika Smith

    Thanks to MAE and NEA I have found the courage to address the bullying of students and employees. I will have some closure 11/28/12 but without MAE ‘s support, I am not sure I would have had the courage to do this. Professional and personal costs are so-o-o-o-o-o-o great. This article was very interesting.