The UPstander Initiative --
"Be a Buddy, not a Bully"
In the summer of 2018, a group of parents, community members, and school representatives began meeting to discuss concerns about bullying in our schools. With a shared desire to become actively involved in promoting a character education program focused on bullying prevention, our group established a theme of “Be a Buddy, not a Bully” to rally around.
Early discussions included phone calls, e-mails, and face-to-face meetings often centered on addressing rules and consequences. Some voiced a perception that schools “don’t do anything” (in terms of punitive consequences). In reality, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act prevents schools from sharing disciplinary records without a parent or guardian’s consent. A presenter at one discipline workshop shared this comment: “A victim’s parents often perceive that no punitive action has been taken because they didn’t see it happen. That we (as educators) can’t share specific facts with a victim or their parents (understandably) regarding punishment leads to some frustration.” School administrators and counselors spend countless hours addressing bullying and peer cruelty…yet such negative behaviors still occur. Recognizing that rules and consequences already existed and are routinely utilized, we had to ask ourselves “What can we do differently?”
A simple online search will reveal dozens of curriculum programs on the subject (some free, others very expensive). The percentage of students reporting having been bullied is astounding. If there were one magic solution that could eliminate bullying, every school in the country would be using it. At the conclusion of virtually every phone call or conversation about what could be done, there was agreement that in order for any anti-bullying effort to be successful, our schools, parents, and community would all need to be involved. Our theme, “Be a Buddy, not a Bully,” is flexible enough to be shaped and molded to fit the needs of any age group or campus, and focuses on emphasizing moral courage through character education efforts. We want to help our students and in fact our entire community learn to be UPstanders rather than bystanders!
In studying Dr. Michele Borba's book "UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World," we came across this video that includes great advice for parents to share with their children (link below):
One of our UPstander Initiative Committee Members (Katie Spiekerman) began a draft of our vision statement for the Initiative:
"We belong to each other and no one stands alone. When one of us wins, we’re all proud. When one of us loses, we gather ‘round and practice for next time. We are heroes for each other; showing our strength in acts of kindness, generosity, and support. We watch out for each other, step in when necessary, and are committed to helping schools remain safe places for learning and being young. We don’t always agree, but we do so agreeably. We are all committed to helping, hoping, and trying. We see the value in everyone, for there is no ‘them;’ only ‘us.’ We are UPstanders… change-makers, bridge-builders, and way-finders."