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10 Steps to Stop and Prevent Bullying

Whether you are a parent, an educator, or a concerned friend of the family, there are ten steps you can take to stop and prevent bullying:

  1. Pay attention. There are many warning signs that may point to a bullying problem, such as unexplained injuries, lost or destroyed personal items, changes in eating habits, and avoidance of school or other social situations. However, every student may not exhibit warning signs, or may go to great lengths to hide it. This is where paying attention is most valuable. Engage students on a daily basis and ask open-ended questions that encourage conversation.
  2. Don’t ignore it. Never assume that a situation is harmless teasing. Different students have different levels of coping; what may be considered teasing to one may be humiliating and devastating to another. Whenever a student feels threatened in any way, take it seriously, and assure the student that you are there for them and will help.
  3. When you see something — do something. Intervene as soon as you even think there may be a problem between students. Don’t brush it off as “kids are just being kids. They’ll get over it.” Some never do, and it affects them for a lifetime. All questionable behavior should be addressed immediately to keep a situation from escalating. Summon other adults if you deem the situation may get out of hand. Be sure to always refer to your school’s anti-bullying policy.
  4. Remain calm. When you intervene, refuse to argue with either student. Model the respectful behavior you expect from the students. First make sure everyone is safe and that no one needs immediate medical attention. Reassure the students involved, as well as the bystanders. Explain to them what needs to happen next — bystanders go on to their expected destination while the students involved should be taken separately to a safe place.
  5. Deal with students individually. Don’t attempt to sort out the facts while everyone is present, don’t allow the students involved to talk with one another, and don’t ask bystanders to tell what they saw in front of others. Instead, talk with the individuals involved — including bystanders — on a one-on-one basis. This way, everyone will be able to tell their side of the story without worrying about what others may think or say.
  6. Don’t make the students involved apologize and/or shake hands on the spot. Label the behavior as bullying. Explain that you take this type of behavior very seriously and that you plan to get to the bottom of it before you determine what should be done next and any resulting consequences based on your school’s anti-bullying policy. This empowers the bullied child — and the bystanders — to feel that someone will finally listen to their concerns and be fair about outcomes.
  7. Hold bystanders accountable. Bystanders provide bullies an audience, and often actually encourage bullying. Explain that this type of behavior is wrong, will not be tolerated, and that they also have a right and a responsibility to stop bullying. Identify yourself as a caring adult that they can always approach if they are being bullied and/or see or suspect bullying.
  8. Listen and don’t pre-judge. It is very possible that the person you suspect to be the bully may actually be a bullied student retaliating or a “bully’s” cry for help. It may also be the result of an undiagnosed medical, emotional or psychological issue. Rather than make any assumptions, listen to each child with an open mind.
  9. Get appropriate professional help. Be careful not to give any advice beyond your level of expertise. Rather than make any assumptions, if you deem there are any underlying and/or unsolved issues, refer the student to a nurse, counselor, school psychologist, social worker, or other appropriate professional.
  10. Become trained to handle bullying situations. If you work with students in any capacity, it is important to learn the proper ways to address bullying. Visit for information and resources. You can also take the pledge to stop bullying, as well as learn how to create a Bully Free program in your school and/or community.

An additional, yet very important step, is to take at least one child to see the Bully movie, and then use it as an opportunity to begin an on-going conversation about bullying. Requests for additional screenings can be made at www.thebullyproject.


NEA's “Bully Free: It Starts With Me” campaign provides information and resources to assist schools, parents and community leaders in addressing issues of violence and bullying in schools, including:

  • Findings from the National Education Association's Nationwide Study of Bullying
    This first-of-its-kind, large-scale research study by NEA and Johns Hopkins University examines different school staff members' perspectives on bullying and bullying prevention efforts.
  • Stand up for bullied students
    Take the “Bully Free: It Starts With Me” pledge and sign up to receive a free poster and window sticker as well as periodic email messages and information about NEA's Bully Free: It Starts With Me campaign.
  • Start a Bully Free Campaign
    Learn the 10 steps to start a Bully Free campaign at your school or within your community organization.
  • Review specific tips and techniques for various school staff members:
    Bus Drivers and Bullying Prevention (PDF)
    Practical tips about what bus drivers can do to prevent or intervene in bullying situations.
  • Clerical Services/Administrative ESPs Bullying Prevention (PDF)
    Administrative staff hear bullying reports from students as well as parents, and are in a good position to intervene.
  • Food Services ESPs and Bullying Prevention (PDF)
    School cafeterias a common location for bullying, and it is an area ripe for bullying prevention and intervention, where staff can curb bullying and promote a positive school climate.
  • Paraeducators and Student-to-Student Bullying (PDF)
    How paraeducators (teaching assistants, teacher aides, paraprofessionals, paras), who are often more likely than teachers to be in a position to witness bullying and intervene in bullying situations, can deal with bullying situations.
    • Download Bully Free Public Service Announcements
      Four PSAs are designed to help to raise awareness about bullying in communities across the nation while providing information on where to find helpful tips and resources.
    • Download A Guide to the film BULLY
      As the film offers insight into the lives of bullied, ridiculed children, the accompanying guide tells the personal stories of those bullied, provides essential background information about bullying, including testimony and research findings from experts who have studied the effects of bullying on children, parents, and communities, and suggest various discussion strategies that will help facilitate honest, open dialogue about the film with groups of students and adults alike.
    • The Stop Bullying Speak Up Comic Challenge!
      These FREE comic-based activities give students a creative and engaging way to share their strategies for speaking up and putting a stop to bullying.
    • Additional Resources, Research, and Tools
      Provides a plethora of additional information, including:

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NEA EdJustice engages and mobilizes activists in the fight for racial, social, and economic justice in public education. Find ways you can advocate for our educators, students, families and communities.

Take the Pledge:

Take the pledge to change school climate and let’s make our schools Bully Free!

Nea President Lily Eskelsen Garcia:

To Become a Bully-Free Nation: Identify. Intervene. Advocate.  Eskelsen Garcia urges you to take advantage of NEA resources and training to bring an end to bullying.


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