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by J Richard Knapp

First, bystanders may be afraid to get involved. These people fear becoming the new target of the bully or even getting hurt while defending the victim.

Second, some bystanders are confused and unsure what to do - so in turn they do nothing at all. Bystanders need a plan of what to do. These bystanders may choose to disassociate themselves with the victim, which may result in deep feelings of guilt.

Third, some bystanders are actually rewarding the behavior of the bully and support the incident which is occurring. These individuals need to be held accountable for their behavior. It is not unusual for these witnesses to blame the victim and attempt to vindicate the bully.

I am often concerned about some anti-bully advocates telling the bystander to intervene on behalf of the victim. This is easier to suggest rather than do. Imagine the courage it would take to stand up for someone you view as strange or a 'loser'. Intervention takes great courage and moral fiber to overcome the fear factor.

Bully prevention must include a direct focus on the role of the 'bystander'. This focus must include a bringing together of the parent, student, and school as partners in the fight to stop bullying. Parents and the school must jointly teach the children how to make friends and to be a friend of others. This includes the so-called 'strange' or 'weird' child. Additionally, they must teach appropriate social skills and self-respect. Both the home and school must model respect and kindness with high behavioral expectations and consequences for inappropriate behaviors. Last, volunteerism and service to others should be encouraged at all levels.


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