The Role of Heroes in Bullying

This week I am presenting the Hero Workshop to two schools that are conducting anti-bullying weeks.  Mill Creek Middle School in Dexter and Baker Middle School in Troy have each put together schedules starting today that are designed to improve the awareness (and thus lower the effectiveness) of bullying in their school communities.

Last week I saw a piece on ABC News about an anti-bullying bill waiting Senate approval in Florida.  The bill aims to provide a set of “bare minimum” rules that every school would have to enforce.  Currently schools are responsible for their own set of rules and guidelines.  My concern with the piece on ABC News was that they seemed to equate bullying purely with physical beating.  They naturally showed the recent footage of young girls beating another girl after some cyber taunts.  This kind of depiction of bullying is a shame as it continues to allow the more subtle types of bullying to continue to be in the shadows.

safenetwork.com has a great page on bullying and the various types.  The best part is the series of photos visualizing those types.  You can see some of them along the side of this post.  Their definition of bullying: bullying is when someone keeps doing or saying things to have power over another person. The behavior can be verbal, emotional, and physical. Their suggestion if you see someone being bullied: you should always try to stop it. If you do nothing, you’re saying that bullying is okay with you. The best way to help is probably to tell an adult. It’s always best to treat others the way you would like to be treated.

The idea that you approve bullying by doing nothing can be a strong message to students and it is one I plan to discuss this week.  Jennifer Brooks has a post today on Zimbardo’s Lucifer Effect blog that has some ideas on that point.  She has a quote from Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”  How apt for describing the bystanders in bullying situations.  And she quotes Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, “the hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.”

The article then goes on to discuss the idea of standing between two warring parties instead of choosing a side.  Her example comes from Henri Dunant who helped create the Red Cross who stood between warring countries to serve the cause of the wounded.  By standing in the middle, you can show independent thought – show that you understand both sides, but decline to demonize one or the other.  Zoe Weil talked about this idea of avoiding black/white, yes/no, Christian/Muslim kinds of thought.

This second point is important for potential heroes in school as they may not feel comfortable choosing sides in bullying, rather simply wanting the inappropriate behaviour to stop.  By being confident that the act of bullying is not okay, students can feel safe to intervene without fear of favouring on party over the other.

To beat bullying we need to:

  • recognize the myriad types of bullying: physical violence, social outcasting, cyber gossiping and intimidation, and name calling among others.
  • understand that doing nothing is equivalent to approving.
  • know that stepping in to stop the behaviour does not mean we have to choose a side.

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16 Responses to The Role of Heroes in Bullying

  1. Lisa April 29, 2008 at 12:12 am #

    In 2006 I attended a program called “Non-violence Training” held by the Michigan Peach TEam. The basic gist of the training and program was just what you mentioned in this post…to stand between the sides and keep the peace essentially. Not to take sides but to keep things peaceful during rallies and non-bullying.

    Here’s an excerpt from my blog about it:

    But I did gain a lot of information about how to diffuse
    conflict between two other people. Such as diverting their
    attention from one another by talking about something
    completely off topic, introducing yourself and bringing the
    attention, whether good or bad, onto yourself.

    It was a good training. Not exactly what I went looking for, but was interesting and thought-provoking, nontheless. I just received a new brochure for the Michigan Peace Team if you’re interested 🙂

  2. Dave Spathaky November 24, 2008 at 7:45 pm #

    Just saw a great on-line reply to a cyber bully trying it on today (in a blog comment actually):

    “Be careful, you know it is really dangerous for you to be so bitter”

    Thought that was a great reply,

    keep up the work

    All the best Dave

  3. Matt Langdon November 24, 2008 at 9:30 pm #

    Great reply indeed. I love it.

  4. Charles May 27, 2009 at 1:11 pm #

    Your atricle was great! I am doing a school project on bullying, and I was looking for pictures to use in a brochure to be published about bullying. These are some great pictures to exemplify bullying in both boys and girls, and I was wondering if I could be granted the permission to use these pictures in my brochure.

    • Matt Langdon May 27, 2009 at 1:14 pm #

      The photos came from safenetwork.com. Check it out for permissions.

  5. jessica September 25, 2009 at 9:31 am #

    isto e um orror porque e um agreção as pessoas

    • Jessica November 10, 2009 at 11:17 pm #

      We should stop what is the big deal bullying weird word

  6. jessica September 25, 2009 at 9:33 am #

    vamos acabar com isto vamos lutar pelo nosso direito [:p] [;d]

  7. miki November 6, 2009 at 9:29 am #

    my freind always tries to bull me and iam trying to be strong

  8. Joanna November 10, 2009 at 11:20 pm #

    Why would anybody bulie. Porque bullie

  9. Aimee November 18, 2009 at 6:24 am #

    im only 11 but that is great you’ve set a wonderful example…

  10. SHARON December 14, 2009 at 9:28 pm #

    WHEN I STARED MIDDLE SCHOOL I WAS BUULIED SO MUCH. EVERYTIME WHEN I SAW THEM IN THE HALL OR ANY WERE THAT I WENT TO AND I SAW THEM THAN I WOULD RUN AWAY. AND I WOULD JUST HIDE. BUT ONE DAY I HAD ENOUGH OF IT SO I TOLD COUPLE OF PEOPLE THAT I KNEW AND THEY HAD DONEN SOMETHING. SO IF YOU ARE GETTING BULLIED IN ANY GRADE YOU ARE THAN DONT JUST STAND THERE DO SOME ACTIONSOF YOUR OWN. AND DONT WAIT UNTIL IT GETS OUT OF CONTROLL AND THAT YOU CANT HANDLE IT. ALSO WHEN YOU THINK THAT WHEN YOU TELL SOMEONE AND THEY FIND OUT AND THEY RE GOING TO HURT U, DONT BE AFARID TO STILL TELL. CAUSE WHEN I WAS IN MIDDLE SCHOOL I WAS REALLY AFRAID OF IT BUT I STILL WENT AND DID IT ANY WAY. YOU REALLY GOT TO STAND UP FOR YOUR SELF. AND NO MATTER WHAT ANY BUULIES SAYS TO YOU AND YOU THOUGHT THAT WAS A THREAD THAN DONT WAIT UNTIL ITS REALLY BAD, AND THAN GO TELL SOMEONE. TELL THEM RIGHT AWAY WHEN YOU DONT THINK THAT ITS A JOKE AND ITS A THREAD. ALSO WHEN YOU FILL ABUSED BY THAT PERSON OR ANYTHING ELSE. PLEASE GO RIGHT FOR HELP WHEN THINGS ARE GOING BAD. AND DONT WAIT FOR 3-6 MONTHH TO JUST TELL ON THEM. BUT DONT GO TO THE TEACHER AND POINT THE STUDENT OUT CASE THAT MIGHT BE BAD TOO. BUT DONT BE A BUULY AND JUST IMAGINE HOW MUCH THEY GOT BULLIED WHEN THEY WERE A KID. AND THAT DOESNT MEAN THAT THEY CAN BULLY YOU BUT WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT THE PEOPLE THAT IS ARPUND YOU.

    • Anonymous February 10, 2010 at 5:55 am #

      great advise

  11. Harley Couper May 18, 2010 at 5:56 pm #

    Here’s a really interesting book chapter on it (I summarise below). Excuse the academic tone, it was for a Guidance Paper.

    Book Title: Bullying in Secondary Schools: What it looks like and How to manage it.
    Chapter titile: Changing the Social Dynamic: The No Blame Approach
    Sullivan, K, Cleary, M, Sullivan, G
    2004

    The No Blame approach was developed on the assumption that victims are not able to stop the bullying and bullies are more likely misguided than pathological. This pro-social approach side steps the cycle of blame, leverages the power inherent in the peer group and focuses on how to make it right without necessitating agreement on the events in question. Punishment is seen as escalating the problem; instead the emphasis is reflection on the result of bullying behaviour, and the proffering of social status via more pro social alternatives.

    The five step process is:

    1. Meet the victim, (explain process, focus on feelings, gain consent, locate peers, victim to produce wiring/art expressing feelings)
    2. Select the group
    3. Meet with entire group (explain no blame, illicit ‘support the victim’ type ideas, leave outcome to group)
    4. Review one week later (check group and victim progress, either individually or as a group)
    5. Follow up
    This is not a standalone programme but a process designed to work within larger initiatives.

    The successful elements are identified as:

    1. Non punitive – removing fear and making way for empathy and problem solving
    2. Takes the onus off the victim – recognises that they don’t have the means to solve the problem
    3. Not seeking reasons for the bullying
    4. Not using labels, which reinforce the power differential
    5. Focussed on stopping bullying not addressing specific acts of violence, which should be addressed according to school rules

    Two case studies follow, illustrating the application of No Blame and showing how easily bulling can enter a student’s life.
    Well structured and illustrated, the article is specific and immediately applicable. It is grounded in healthy psychological and sociological presuppositions which must not be underestimated. Implementation within a punitive atmosphere could be damaging to all parties.

  12. brave_heart_reza June 22, 2010 at 7:04 pm #

    I totally agree with you!

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