Student Voices Against Bullying

Students sit down face to face to confront bullies and bullying.

By: Sean M. Brooks

Bullying isn’t what it used to be. In the age of social media, taunts and gossip are now posted on the Internet for all to see. When those comments become bullying that affects our students, educators require a new approach—one that is simple, honest, and to the point. We must let the students take the lead.

At Punta Gorda Middle School in Florida, we empowered students to push back against bullying and educated the entire community about the problem.

To address the problem of bullying, we started with group meetings. Students who were having trouble with bullies or were concerned about the learning environment met in a classroom during homeroom to talk about the issue and brainstorm resolutions. Those who were being bullied often invited their tormentors to join in the discussion. The group met for about 15 to 20 minutes. All interested students could attend; they simply needed permission from their homeroom teacher. Attendance varied between 10 and 80 students per session.

The group gave the students an opportunity to sit down with their peers whom they perceived as bullies. When confronted, some of the bullies said they didn’t want to be bullies; others said they didn’t know why they bullied. Many of these students began to recognize the negative effects of their behavior and continued to participate in the group sessions.

Some bullies said their teasing was all in fun and opted to not participate. Before they left the room, however, the other students had a chance to share their concerns and to remind them that they could change their behavior. Being confronted by their peers rather than by administrators was powerful and did make an impression on many of the perceived bullies.

The Roundtable

Based on earlier success we had filming students talking about school safety, we decided to film the students talking about their experiences and air the videos schoolwide. We called the program The Roundtable, reflecting the idea that all students have an equal voice.

Students who participated in The Roundtable met twice a week at the beginning of homeroom to discuss their thoughts about bullying in school, on the bus, at the bus stop, in the locker room, and so on. All students were invited to attend.

Each filmed session was edited to highlight the student’s voice. We aired the 15-minute videos over the cable system once or twice a month at the beginning of homeroom, encouraging teachers to continue the discussion in homeroom. We also made the videos available to teachers on DVDs so they could show them at convenient and appropriate times.

Teachers were not required to show the videos, and some opted not to, but allowing students to take this leadership role created new relationships among students and affected students where it matters most—in the heart.

Authentic Voices

Unlike generic public service announcements that last 15 seconds and are forgotten, Roundtable videos are unscripted and feature students in classes talking about what matters to them. They hope to make the environment in which they live and learn safer for everyone, including the adults.

Everyone is responsible for ensuring a safe, nurturing school environment. Don’t wait until someone loses a life. Be on the side of prevention, not reaction.

Sean M. Brooks, a former middle school teacher, currently teaches at Charlotte High School in Punta Gorda, Florida.

This article was published in AMLE Magazine, April 2014

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Bullying/School SafetyLeadership
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5 comments on article "Student Voices Against Bullying"

This article is important to me because it shows that students can gain leadership and stand up to their bullies. The students are able to talk amongst themselves and solve their own issues between each other. Once the students get to talking they realize that their bullying was unintentional. I know that is probably not the case in every school, but it was nice to read that in some cases it can be worked out amongst the students.

9/28/2014 12:23 PM

This article shows the importance of having some type of anti-bullying movement in our schools. I do wonder how parents of these so-called bullies reacted to their kids being confronted for bullying behavior?

9/28/2014 5:45 PM

Hello Sean,

This article is great in many ways! I think it is great that you give your students a chance for leadership positions at this age as well as standing up for something that may be sensitive to them. These students are so brave to be able to host these meetings during homeroom and to talk about their problems in front of other peers. Bullying is well-known especially in the middle level classrooms and it is great that these students can not only stand up against the bullies but they are also changing the mindsets of these bullies. Some of these students may have eventually taken it too far by harming another peer. I absolutely agree with having students take leadership of their own lives and using those skills to help their peers. Having the knowledge of how to be a good leader and how to construct a good conversation with another student is a great skill and learning that in a middle level classroom is so important. These students now have the knowledge of the consequences and now they can feel like they are in a safe environment when they enter school. Your last statement saying 'Be on the side of prevention, not reaction' is such a strong statement. This statement can go along ways if you get a jump start on educating your students before bad things start to happen.

Jordyn Holle

2/17/2015 8:09 PM

I just came across this many years after it was first published, and, unfortunately, the issues that your students had faced has become more problematic with that advancement of technology.

It is important that students are able to have ownership in making something better or changing it so that others will not have the same experience.

The idea of the round table is interesting in that it goes way beyond a PSA in that it is the students who give a recognizable face to the problems many of them try to hide from.

Great read, and thanks again for sharing.

11/4/2017 3:30 PM

Bullying gets worse as technology progresses as I have seen in the classroom. It is essential that students take responsibilities for their actions as well as learn from them. We need to teach them about the effects of bullying. The round table approach is extremely interesting. I love that all the students have an equal voice.

10/4/2018 11:21 PM

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