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Student bullying often occurs when adults aren’t around to see or hear. Even so, teachers frequently witness bullying behaviors in the general rush of the day – although they may not actively attach the “bullying” label to such behaviors as pushing, name calling, spreading rumors or social exclusion.

If teachers don’t respond to bullying behavior when they see it, it can give students the idea there’s nothing is wrong with it, and can even send a message to the targets of bullying that they somehow deserve it.

Teachers’ Response to Bullying

While a school-wide response to bullying is best, there’s much that can be done by individual teachers.

Classroom instruction, discussion, creative reflection and training in effective responses to bullying all help students identify bullying behavior and practice civility.

Classroom rules – drawn up by the teacher and students together – give students clear guidance about expected behavior.

When witnessing bullying behavior, teachers may decide to

  • intervene immediately, such as by referencing classroom rules;
  • make note of the students involved and have private, separate chats with them later; or
  • ask another school professional to intervene.

Teachers also can be more actively involved in stopping bullying behavior by playing detective and learning the “hot spots” where bullying or teasing typically occurs on campus. These locations can be made less attractive by adding supervision.


Youth Violence Project: The Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia has created and administered a number of surveys and projects designed to measure school climate and identify bullying behavior.
Preventing Classroom Bullying: What Teachers Can Do: This free PDF booklet about how teachers can prevent and intervene in classroom bullying was written by Jim Wright, a school psychologist.
Stop Bullying Now is run by Stan Davis, a researcher on bullying and founding member of the International Bullying Prevention Association.
Lesson plans: The Kamaron Institute offers lesson plans for teachers around bullying and character education.
StopBullying.gov bullying prevention resources: The government’s official website on bullying provides resources for educators, students and parents regarding ways to prevent or reduce bullying.

Learn more:

School-Wide Initiatives
Support Staff
Bullying Programs Research and Results