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A-Module 2 Bystander Behavior

  • We will analyze the impact of bystander behavior (both positive and negative) on bullying situations.
  • We will identify and describe the types of bystander responses.
  • We will identify and describe desired “upstander” responses.
  • We will apply upstander behaviors.
  • Draw a large triangle on the board or on a piece of chart paper.
  • Ask students, “Who is usually involved in a bullying situation?” Clarify the question by saying, ““The people involved play 3 major roles – what are they?”
  • As you elicit the responses place an X on each side of the triangle and label it as one of the following key players:
    1.  Bully
    2. Target
    3. Bystanders
  • In order to emphasize the power of bystanders tell the students that most bullying takes place with other people around, usually when an adult is not present. Add a number of X’s to the corner of the triangle labeled bystanders. “In our previous lesson, who did we say has the power in a bullying situation? Yes, the bully. However let’s look at this triangle. Just look at this and think before you respond – who could have the power?” Ask guiding questions that will allow students to see that the bystanders, who are usually more in number, can impact a bullying situation. Write the following on the board, “Bystanders have the power to ——–.” Ask students to finish the sentence. After students share responses emphasize that “Bystanders can use their power to stop bullying or support it.
  • Discuss the fact that most bullying stops if someone speaks up. The following information may be helpful and can be used throughout this module as the teacher determines appropriate. The information can be used to demonstrate to students that they are the ones who are witnessing the bullying behavior and that they have more power to stop it than they realize.

Bullying Facts

  • Peers are present 85% of the time bullying occurs in schools (Craig W.M.& Pepler (1997) Observations of bullying and victimization in the school yard. Canadian Journal of School Psychology 13[2];41-60.
  • According to research, bystanders stand by and do nothing 54% of the time, join in 21% and intervene to stop the bullying 25% of the time. Hawkins, DL, Pepler, D.J. Craig W.M. [2001] Naturalistic observations of peer interventions in bullying. Social Development 10,512-527.
  • When peers do nothing but simply stand by and watch the bullying, they are making things worse by giving an audience for the student doing the bullying. O’Connell,P.,Pepler, D.,&Craig.W. (1999). Peer involvement in bullying; Insights and challenges for intervention. Journal of Adolescence, 22, 437-452.
  • When bystanders join in by laughing or cheering, they make things worse by encouraging the bullying to continue. O’Connell,P.,Pepler, D.,&Craig.W. (1999). Peer involvement in bullying; Insights and challenges for intervention. Journal of Adolescence, 22, 437-452.
  • When bystanders intervened to stand up for the victim and try to stop the bullying, they were successful more than 50% of the time and typically very quickly within the first 10 seconds. Hawkins, DL, Pepler, D.J. Craig W.M. [2001] Naturalistic observations of peer interventions in bullying. Social Development 10,512-527.
  • When children learn how to be upstanders and make efforts to implement and practice the behaviors to stop bullying, bullying can be significantly decreased. Olewus, D. (1993) Bullying at school: What we know and what we can do. Cambridge, MA; Blackwell Publishers


Show CLIP 6  which shows bystander scenes from the movie. Students should work in pairs to describe the actions of the bystanders. Discuss responses.

Discuss the two kinds of bystanders: Helpful and Hurtful. Helpful bystanders are Upstanders. Upstanders know bullying is hurtful and they take a stand against bullying. Show CLIP 7. Actors and students will discuss each of the following bystander roles:

Hurtful Bystanders:
Henchman: Henchman take an active part in the bullying. They join in and encourage others to join in the bullying once it has begun.
Encouragers: Encouragers condone the bully’s actions by laughing, cheering or making comments that encourage the bully’s behavior. Even “liking” a cruel comment on a YouTube video or on Facebook is hurtful, not helpful.
Do Nothings: Do nothings do just that – nothing. By watching they give the bully the audience he/she craves, and silently allow the bully to continue their hurtful behavior. Do nothings often feel badly for the target. They may not think they are supporting the bully, but their passive behavior does just that.
Helpful Bystanders – Upstander:
Interveners: Interveners discourage the bully by defending the victim or redirecting the situation away from bullying. They also can rally the support of other bystanders to stand up against the bully.
Reporters: Reporters help by making sure trusted adults are aware of the bullying situation so that the adults can intervene and assist the target.

On the board or piece of chart paper write, “Why Bystanders choose to be hurtful, not helpful.” Ask, “Why do some bystanders choose to be Do Nothings? Why don’t they intervene or report?” Develop a list of reasons provided by the students.

Guided Discussion: Ask students to think about the Henchmen and the Encouragers in Clip 1 and ask: “Why do you think they did what they did?” “Why do they join in or actively encourage the bully?” Add to the list of reasons that people choose to be hurtful bystanders. (look for the following types of answers)

  • They think, “It’s none of my business.”
  • They don’t want to be a snitch, a rat or a tattletale.
  • The student doing the bullying is popular and the supporter wants to be considered cool.
  • They are having fun.
  • They fear getting hurt.
  • They fear they will be the next target.
  • They feel powerless and don’t know what to do.
  • They don’t like the victim or believe the victim “deserves” it.
  • They fear retaliation.
  • They think that telling adults won’t help or it may make things worse.

Refer back to student responses about not wanting to intervene because of fear of not being considered cool or not being part of the “in” group. Ask, “Is it really cool to bully or is that just what the bully wants us to think?” Say, “Suppose all the students who know what is right, respectful and caring decide that the New Cool in Our School is to be an Upstander?” Acknowledge that being an Upstander takes leadership and courage.
Discuss the first part of Hand Out 4 – Upstander which discusses upstander behavior, and explain that these are the two things that everyone must do:

At the very least everyone must:
Not laugh or join in
Walk away and get others to walk away-don’t give the bully an audience.

Introduce How to Be an Upstander with CLIP 8 (actors discussing Upstander actions) It is Important to clarify that students may do more than one thing, but that they should do what is safe and never engage in a dangerous situation, but to get an adult.

How to be an Upstander

  • Tell the bully to stop. Examples: “Cut it out!”, “That’s not funny!”, “How’d you like it if someone did that to you?”
  • Get others in the group to join you in telling the bully to stop. There is power in numbers.
  • Send a loud group message. Remember bystanders can take the bully’s power!
  • Help the target get away from the situation.
  • Report the situation to an adult. If you feel like you can’t speak up, walk away from the situation and tell the nearest adult. This is reporting not ratting! If your school has an anonymous bullying reporting program, like a hotline, use it.*
  • Do something nice for the victim. Invite them to lunch. Tell them you feel badly about the bullying. Tell them it is not their fault and encourage them to confide in trusted adults.
  • Include the student who is being excluded.
  • Always Report Bullying, This is not Ratting

Discuss with the students that it is important that students understand that ratting or tattling is done to get others IN trouble. Telling or reporting is to get someone OUT of trouble.
“Telling” is always right when students see, know about, or suspect that another student is being bullied. Reporting is done to get someone out of trouble, a dangerous situation or preventing the situation from occurring. In these situations, it is not ratting, tattling or snitching.
This means if there is a situation where a student is being hurt physically or emotionally, threatened, verbally abused, cyber bullied, or treated in any other harmful manner, this should be reported so that adult intervention can take place.
Students who feel safer reporting these situations anonymously should do so, but this behavior needs to be reported. Teachers should talk about their school reporting policies, including how students may report anonymously.
This is also a good opportunity to send the message that in your school the expectation is that students will be Upstanders.


Ask students to work in small groups to think about one of the bystander clips from the movie. How could that situation have been different if the bystanders were Upstanders? Choose one scene and write new dialogue for one or more of the bystanders that would show how they displayed Upstander behavior. Each group shares the line of dialogue they created.

Ask students to design an advertisement and/or application for an Upstander.
Have students write a journal entry about a time they were a bystander to a bullying incident. What did they do? How did they feel? If they did not act as an Upstander, what actions might they have taken and how would this have changed the situation?
Ask students to think about an incident of bullying in a book they have read or another movie they have seen. Describe the incident and tell how a character or characters could have been Upstanders. How would this have changed the outcome?
Have the students rewrite the scene from the book or the script for the movie scene with different bystander behavior. Students may act out the new scene and video-tape it to share with the class.
Think about a person or group of people in history who were Upstanders. What did they stand up for? Once they stood up, did others join them? What was the outcome?

Have students create a video Public Service Announcement (PSA) in which they appear using a webcam, phone, or flipcam and explain the importance of being an upstander or perform a short skit showing bystander behavior. Use video editors like We Video ( or iMovie to create the PSA, using the video footage and background music.
Have students recreate a scene from the movie, but change the behavior of bystanders to upstanders.. Students can use a cartoon creator such as ToonDoo ( to present how being an upstander might have changed the outcome of that particular scene.

  1. Bystander by James Preller ©2011 Square FishInterest (256 pages)Bystander describes the experiences of Eric, who moves to a new school amidst the upheaval of his father’s absence in his life due to schizophrenia. He makes the rookie mistake of getting involved with popular-seeming Griffin, who turns out to be the school bully. Eric is complicit in standing by as Griffin bullies others in exchange for his acceptance, but eventually learns to stand up through a major conflict with Griffin.