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Teaching students how to deal with bad behavior, bullies
Justis column: Fan behavior and student bullying remain a problem
Nancy Justis - correspondent
Sep. 29, 2022 3:52 pm
Administrators can take control of inappropriate fan behavior, something which is becoming more frequent at youth sporting events.
But how can students intervene correctly to diffuse bullying and other poor behavior by attendees?
Research has shown bystanders can cut bullying by more than half the time and within 10 seconds, according to The Robert D. and Billie Ray Center, home of Character Counts.
In a contributing article to Character Counts, Michele Borba noted active student bystanders can:
- Reduce the audience that a bully craves.
- Mobilize the compassion of witnesses to step in and stop the bullying.
- Support the victim and reduce the trauma.
- Be a positive influence in curbing a bullying episode.
- Encourage other students to support a school climate of caring.
- Report a bullying incident since 85 percent of time bullying occurs when an adult is not present. Students usually are the witnesses.
Borba also noted there are parameters to activate student bystanders.
- To ensure success you must first mobilize students to be active bystanders.
- You must give students permission to step in.
- You must also teach specific strategies so they can step in. Each strategy must be rehearsed or role-played until kids can use it alone. Role play in assemblies, make charts of reminders and post around school.
- Enlist peer leaders to mobilize other peers.
- Adults must be on board with the approach. They must listen to student reports of poor behavior and back students up.
Borba notes there are three steps to teach bystander skills:
- Teach students tattling vs. reporting. “If someone could get hurt, REPORT. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.” Teach so they know when they should step in or when to step back and let those involved handle things for themselves because it’s just teasing. Identify trusted adults kids can go to and report bullying. “Tattling is when you’re trying to get kids in trouble when they aren’t hurting themselves or others. Reporting is when you’re trying to help keep kids OUT of trouble because they may get hurt. Keep reporting until you find an adult who listens.”
- Teach what bullying looks and sounds like. Bullying is a cruel or aggressive act that is done on purpose. The bully has more power (strength, status, size) than the targeted child who cannot hold his or her own. The hurtful bullying behavior is not an accident, but done on purpose. The bully usually seems to enjoy seeing the victim in distress and rarely accepts responsibility. Teach the five bullying types — physical, verbal, emotional, electronic or cyberbullying and sexual. Mobilize student compassion by making posters, power-point presentation, skits or projects about bullying. Use literature or videos, such as “Confessions of a Former Bully” by Trudy Lidwig, “Say Something” by Peggy Moss Gardiner, “Teammates” by Peter Golenbock, or “The Bully Blockers Club” by Teresa Bateman.
- Teach “bully buster bystander” skills, keeping in mind not all strategies work for all kids.
Borba noted research shows if witnesses know a victim feels upset or wants help, they are more likely to step in. If a bystander befriends a victim, others are more likely to stand up to the bully.
- Show comfort by standing closer to the victim.
- Wave other peers over.
- Ask if the victim wants help.
- Empathize with the victim.
- Encourage students to befriend the bullied after the episode, reducing the pain of the targeted and witness.
A correct diversion can draw peers from the scene, make them focus elsewhere, giving the target an opportunity to get away and possibly get the bully to move on. The bystander can ask a question, use a diversion like “there’s a great volleyball game on” or “a teacher is coming.”
Speaking out hopefully can lead to others lending a hand. Stay calm and never boo, clap, laugh or insult. Show disapproval by giving a cold, silent stare; call it for what it is — bullying, label it as “mean,” state your disapproval and ask for support from others.
With the technology available, bystanders also can call for help from their mobile phone, send a text to someone who can help or call 911 if someone is in danger of physical harm.
Bullies love audiences, so if possible, Borba suggested exiting the scene alone or encourage others to leave with you.
“The right comments and behaviors can make peers stop, think, consider the consequences and even move on. Bystanders can make a difference. They can be mobilized to step in and reduce bullying — that is if they are taught how,” she said.
Nancy Justis is a former competitive swimmer and college sports information director. She is a partner with Outlier Creative Communications. Let her know what you think at email@example.com