Be an Upstander, Not a Bystander: Quiet Acts of Courage Work to Discourage Bullying

You’re getting bits and pieces of something happening at school, perhaps not in your child’s classroom, but in the cafeteria, maybe, or outside at recess. Your student has revealed moments of anxiety and hints at someone being bullied, though insists she’s not involved. You’re not quite sure what to say or do. Do you take action? How can you reassure your child?  

Whether we feel comfortable or not addressing the issue of school bullies and cyber civility, it’s important to be aware of the helpful new facts and tools that are available to assist us in guiding our kids. The experts say we should all engage whenever there are signs any student is being picked on, working together as a pro-active safety net of teachers, parents, administrators, and even fellow students.  

That is the continuing goal in Cobb Schools, where this issue has been studied and addressed for generations, and we have a staff dedicated to the problem.  

Working with kids on specific ways to counter bullying while communicating with the adults involved are crucial to maintaining a safe environment for all students, according to Dr. Patricia Agatson, the CCSD’s longtime Coordinator of Crisis Response, a licensed counselor and a distinguished speaker, and author/contributor in multiple books on the subject.  

“Adults need to model kindness and civility,” Dr. Agatson explains, citing the growing literature on bullying, “but they also need to know where to find the resources they need to build a community of social and emotional awareness.” 

Her workshops, held at various Cobb schools throughout the year, offer a wealth of information on how we as parents can do this.  

  • Did you know that the more bystanders are exposed to bullying, the less empathy they have for the victims? 
  • Did you know that role-playing with your child can help them to stand up to bullies? 

Being an Upstander 

Unfortunately, as good manners and acceptable behavior are modeled less and less in popular culture, the need for people to stand up – to become an upstander, rather than a bystander – has become greater.  

Fortunately, according to principal and teacher reports, almost every day there are “quiet acts of courage” happening at all levels as students, teachers, and parents work their safety nets, pro-actively countering the harmful effects of bullying. Whether originating with a single, thoughtless action, or more regular malicious ones, school communities are saying no to the negativity. For parents, awareness is the first step.  

For information on how you can shed your bystander role and get schooled on this issue, Dr. Agatson recommends you browse the following websites for information: 

  • StopBullying.gov: “Teach kids how to identify bullying and how to stand up to it safely.” 
  • Bystanders to Bullying: “Youth who are bullied often feel even more alone because there are witnesses who do nothing.” 

We encourage all Cobb parents, students, or staff members to report any safety concerns to the Safe Schools Alert Tipline. 

Dr. Agatson’s book, Cyberbullying: Bullying in the Digital Age, was co-written with Robin Kowalski, Ph.D., and Susan Limber, Ph.D. Watch also for Dr. Agatson’s workshops and try to attend one. You’ll be so glad you did.