Roles of the bystanders- the negative side

Roles of the bystandersBystanders of bullying:

Team – Students who support the bully – Part of the “Bully Team”, but don’t initiate it themselves.

Fans – Students who cheer on the bully

Complacent – students who watch and say nothing or do nothing

Why don’t more bystanders intervene?

(Response stats from surveys 2009)

  • They think, “It’s none of my business.”
  • They fear becoming the next victim.
  • They believe the victim “deserves” it.
  • They don’t want to draw attention to themselves.
  • They think that telling adults won’t help or it may make things worse.
  • They don’t know what to do.

Preparing children to become helpful bystanders
Adults can prepare children to become helpful bystanders by discussing with them the different ways bystanders can make a difference.  Starting by letting them know that adults will support them if and when they speak up. Adults can also provide examples of how helpful bystanders have shown courage in real-life situations and in their own experiences.

The best way we have found to get bystanders to do the right thing is to understand our complacent complicity theory. It’s simple when you’re complacent, you’re complicit. How we go about demonstrating this to students is by using the campfire analogy. As we know, a fire needs three elements: ignition, fuel, and oxygen. Just like a campfire needs oxygen, so do the bullies. The way we give the oxygen to the bully is by being complacent; whereas we take the oxygen away is by speaking up. This way, the bystander can clearly understand that they are either a part of the problem or a part of the solution.

“…Well-known singer and actress Bette Midler was asked in an interview if there was anything in her life that she regretted.

She described an incident she recalled from high school. While a teacher was out of the room, several classmates surrounded a shy, quiet boy and locked him in the classroom closet.

When the teacher returned to the room Bette Midler or any other student did nothing to alert her and the boy stayed in the closet till the end of the day when he was found by a school custodian. With tears streaming down Bette Midler’s face, she went on to say that the boy who was locked in the closet had gone home that night and hung himself.

To this day, she said, she feels guilty for having stood by and allowed the boy to be bullied. To this day, she wonders if speaking up might have saved his life.”[1]

[1]  John McDonald, Bully Solutions, The Lingering Effects of Bullying, April 13, 2010  (Feb 1, 2012)

bystanders of bullying