Find Out What Happened

Students sit outside the principal's officeWhether you’ve just stopped bullying on the spot or a child has reached out to you for help, follow the steps below to determine the best way to proceed.

Get the Facts 

  • Keep all the involved children separate. 
  • Get the story from several sources, both adults and kids.
  • Listen without blaming.
  • Don’t call the act “bullying” while you are trying to understand what happened.

It may be difficult to get the whole story, especially if multiple students are involved or the bullying involves social bullying or cyberbullying. Collect all available information.

Determine if it's Bullying 

There are many behaviors that look like bullying but require different approaches. It is important to determine whether the situation is bullying or something else.

Review the definition of bullying. State law and school policy may have additional guidelines for defining bullying behavior.
To determine if this is bullying or something else, consider the following questions:

  • What is the history between the kids involved? Have there been past conflicts?
  • Is there a power imbalance? Remember that a power imbalance is not limited to physical strength. It is sometimes not easily recognized. If the targeted child feels like there is a power imbalance, there probably is.
  • Has this happened before? Is the child worried it will happen again?
  • Have the kids dated? There are special responses for teen dating violence.
  • Are any of the kids involved with a gang? Gang violence has different interventions.

Remember that it may not matter “who started it.” Some kids who are bullied may be seen as annoying or provoking, but this does not excuse the bullying behavior.

Once you have determined if the situation is bullying, support the kids involved.