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The Role of the Bystander

October 24, 2013
By Terry Kok

Calvin Christian, like many schools, has been actively addressing the serious issue of bullying.  Last year our junior high students met in small groups, twice a month, to discuss and work through, an excellent Christian based bullying curriculum.

One of the things we learned about was the importance of the role of the bystander.  A bystander, who witnesses bullying, has a responsibility to report it or else become a passive participant in the bullying.   The small groups were challenged with specific actions they could take to reduce the immediate incident and bullying in general.

In the last couple of weeks the news has been filled with the story of the tragic suicide of a Florida teenager who was consistently bullied by other young people.  What a sad thing for everyone involved. After that incident I received an e-mail from Peacemakers, the organization that authored our bullying curriculum.  The following is an excerpt from the email and serves as a great reminder of the best ways to overcome bullying.

Bystanders possess the most potential power to diminish bullying through the deployment of assertive but non-violent peer pressure. And studies show that most students know and feel bullying is wrong when witnessed. 

Harvard’s Making Caring Common Project asked students what their parents valued most. Their me-centered answers? Their children’s happiness, self-esteem, and accomplishments. None help rear children who are caring, kind, courageous, responsible and just--the kind needed to reduce bullying. Instead, says Co-Director Richard Weissbourd, we should tell our children, “The most important thing to me is not that you are happy but kind and happy.” 

Aristotle among others told us that courage is a muscle: It only grows when flexed--not by watching a flash mob, playing a role in a skit, giving a speech, or standing elegantly on point.

They must commit acts of selfless courage themselves. It’s a challenge but, as our experience tells us, it’s doable when we move the harder but better direction this month and months to come.

Paul Coughlin

As Christians we are especially called to help the helpless.  Let’s continue to partner together as Christian home and school to do everything in our power to combat this problem.

Learn more about what the Protectors are doing here or to learn about the anti-bullying curriculum we used in our Junior High chapel last year, click here

Eric Stubbs says:
November 10, 2013 10:12 PM CST

Such a blessing and so exciting, yet reassuring knowing you stay on top of this crisis topic.  Our school is blessed to have leaders like you looking out for our children!  Thank you Terry!