How to Identify and Address Bullying in Class A Teacher's Guide
Jun 20 2023
Updated at: Oct 17 2023

How to Identify and Address Bullying in Class: A Teacher's Guide

Positive Action Team
Learn how to recognize and respond to bullying behaviors in your classroom. Perfect for teachers looking to create an inclusive learning environment.

Picture this scenario:

You’re an exchange student who transferred from France to an American elementary school. Coming from a different educational system, you were concerned that you might have trouble fitting in or facing mistreatment as a foreign student. 

But all your apprehensions are immediately thrown out the window on your first day at school.

You observe that the teachers are kind, supportive, and nurturing, instantly assuring you that you’re in a caring, inclusive, and safe learning environment.

Furthermore, witnessing your fellow classmates exercise positive actions such as respect, kindness, and empathy towards one another encourages you to actively engage with them, participate in activities, and build connections.

What if I could tell you that you can make the following scenario a reality for all the students in your school?

The aforementioned conditions are the result of the implementation of a highly effective, research-based bullying prevention program that creates a bullying-free atmosphere where students are taught to treat others the way they wish to be treated.

Today, we are going to provide you with a step-by-step guide on how you can effectively identify and address a bullying situation to foster a positive school climate that allows your students to focus on academic achievement. We will also cover:

  • How you can identify perpetrator behavior and provide victim support
  • Child psychology tips you can use to communicate and support a bullied student
  • An in-depth look at Positive Action’s Bullying Prevention Kit and how you can use it for conflict resolution

Without further ado, let’s dive straight into the only comprehensive guide you’ll ever need for addressing and identifying bullying in a classroom.

1 - Be on the Lookout for Any Signs of Bullying

There’s a clear difference between a bullied student and an empowered one.

Research shows that empowered children possess positive social skills that contribute to their positive outlook on the world beyond school, fostering a sense of optimism, trust, and empathy in them.

On the other hand, bullying victims often exhibit withdrawn and underwhelmed behavior in the learning environment. They tend to avoid social interactions due to experiencing negative emotions such as fear, sadness, and anxiety, which make them feel stressed and uneasy.

No teacher wants to see any of their students in this state, and as the famous saying goes, “Prevention is better than cure.” To help you identify potential signs of bullied student behavior, we have compiled three warning signs to watch out for:

  • Hyper-vigilance and mistrust: Being a victim of bullying can heighten a student's sense of vigilance, causing them to constantly scan their surroundings for potential threats.

They may look on edge and have difficulty trusting others and forming new friendships, as they fear that these new connections might also become targets or betray their confidence. 

Consequently, the student may exhibit signs of hyper-vigilance, such as frequently looking around, avoiding eye contact, or displaying signs of nervousness or unease in social situations. 

  • Isolation and loneliness: Bullying can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness for the student.

When you notice a student consistently sitting by themselves, not engaging in conversations with peers, or actively trying to avoid social interactions, chances are they’re being bullied.

They may feel like they have no one to turn to for support or companionship, leading them to choose isolation, avoid group activities, or become socially withdrawn. 

  • Loss of interest and motivation: When a student experiences bullying, they may lose their enthusiasm for school and activities they once enjoyed.

For example, a student who used to participate actively in class discussions or extracurricular activities may become disengaged and disinterested. They might show a lack of motivation to complete assignments or participate in group projects. 

You may also observe a significant decline in their participation, a decrease in their effort level, or a lack of enthusiasm during class.

Positive Action offers a classroom management program that can assist you in understanding the dynamics of student relationships and effectively identify the early warning signs of bullying.

By recognizing these signs promptly, you can intervene and prevent victims from experiencing severe effects, such as suicide.

2 - Communicating With and Supporting a Bullied Student

Positive Action's Counselor Kit

Children are not equipped with the psychological resilience to cope with the trauma caused by bullying, which can significantly impact their emotional well-being and result in feelings of shame, fear, and isolation.

It’s important that you approach children who have experienced bullying with compassion and empathy, acknowledging their emotional vulnerability, and validating their experiences. 

If you use this approach, then they may feel more comfortable opening up about their experiences and beginning the healing process.

Here are three essential guidelines points you can utilize to communicate with and support a bullied student effectively:

  • Encourage open communication: The first thing you want to do is create a secure and non-judgmental space where the student feels comfortable sharing their feelings and experiences. 

In a quiet room, free from interruptions, use active listening techniques to show that you are fully engaged and genuinely interested in what they have to say. 

For example, you can say, “I want you to know, I'm here for you. I'm ready to listen if you ever want to talk about what you're going through. It's important that you know your voice matters to me.”

  • Validate their experiences: At the beginning of every session, ensure the student knows their emotions and feelings are valid. Let them understand that bullying is not their fault and that they deserve support. 

You can say, “I want you to know that what you're feeling is completely valid. No one deserves to be treated that way, and it's not your fault. I take your concerns seriously, and together, we will find a way to address this issue.”

  • Offer additional support resources: Inform the student about available support resources to provide them with additional assistance. This may include school counseling services, peer support groups, or helplines.

Positive Action has a Counseling Kit that contains a comprehensive manual guide with activities and lessons designed to offer intensive support and assistance for a bullied student.

It serves as a valuable resource to help bullied students develop healthier coping mechanisms, such as expressing their emotions and assertively addressing bullying incidents.

All in all, you need to approach a situation like this with patience, compassion, and empathy. It’s also worth noting that each student has unique needs and preferences, so ensure that you tailor your approach based on their responses and comfort levels. 

3 - How to Deal With Bullies as a Teacher

Bullying behavior is not an overnight phenomenon. 

It typically develops gradually over time, and as educators, it is crucial for us to recognize the early indicators that a student may be heading down this path. By identifying these signs early on, we can take immediate action to address the issue and prevent harm to others.

Be vigilant for students who exhibit signs of defiance and superiority, such as eye-rolling, skipping classes, and declining grades.

Additionally, observe the behavior of individual students in various settings, such as the classroom, playground, hallways, and online platforms. 

Look for signs of aggression, intimidation, or power imbalances. Some behaviors to watch out for include verbal abuse, spreading rumors, exclusion, or cyberbullying.

Notice if there are certain students who consistently display controlling behavior, manipulate others, or exert power over their peers. For instance, a good indicator of power imbalance is where a student is frequently the instigator or the center of the conflict.

Once you become aware of an ongoing bullying situation, address it immediately. Take necessary immediate action, such as separating the students involved and providing support to the victim.

Take the bully aside and engage them in a private conversation to discuss their behavior and its impact on others. 

Remain calm and non-confrontational during the discussion to avoid escalating the situation. Help the bully understand the consequences of their actions and the harm they are causing their peers. Use this opportunity to encourage empathy and perspective-taking.

One of the exercises in our Bullying Kit aims to facilitate perspective-taking by introducing the bully to an ongoing story that revolves around three students involved in a bullying situation — the bully, the victim, and a bystander. 

The narrative is designed to foster empathy in the bully by delving into the feelings and experiences of the victim from three different perspectives, encouraging them to consider how their actions may impact others. 

The Bullying Prevention Kit features other group and individual activities that equip your students with Positive Action tools and vocabulary they can utilize to confront a bullying situation in a productive and healthy manner.

Furthermore, the specific strategies offered in the kit educate your students on how they can advocate for themselves and others, enabling them to stand up for themselves and peacefully defuse perpetrator behavior.

By equipping students with these skills to take action, they can become catalysts for change within their school and community. They will be better prepared to speak up when they experience or witness bullying in the classroom.

Our evidence-based bullying prevention programs have showcased outstanding results for teachers nationwide, with reports of a 41% reduction in bullying behavior and a 75% decline in fight outbreaks.

In second grade, I started fights with anyone who tried to challenge me. I was alone and felt that everyone was scared of me. Fourth grade is where I changed my life around (after being introduced to Positive Action). I made new friends and didn’t care to fight.” - 6th Grade Student

Expert Tip: Even though our curriculum only lasts a single school year, this study by the University of Nebraska recommends that the initiative is implemented for a minimum of two years for maximum effectiveness.

4 - Develop a School-Wide Anti-Bullying Policy

Positive Action's Bullying Prevention Kit

When parents enroll their children in your school, they place their trust in you to ensure the safety and well-being of their children while they’re at school.

This trust comes with high expectations from parents, who have a strong desire for their children to be protected from bullying and to feel secure in the school environment. 

Bullying incidents can deeply impact parents, students, and staff, eliciting a range of emotions and concerns, including fear, mistrust, frustration, and a sense of powerlessness.

To put everyone’s mind at peace, we recommend implementing a school-wide no-bullying policy that requires the consent and cooperation of both parents and students. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you establish and enforce this policy:

  1. Organize a meeting with the administration and staff of your school and work diligently to create an anti-bullying policy that fosters a culture of respect, empathy, and kindness. 

    We recommend modeling one that is based on Positive Action’s Programs so that the concepts of the policy reinforce what is already taught in the classroom.

  2. Before the start of the school year, organize an orientation program for new students and their parents. During this program, the principal and the school counselor will deliver a presentation on the school's anti-bullying policy and initiative.

    For the principal’s segment, they will emphasize the importance of building a welcoming and inclusive community where every student feels valued and respected.

    Meanwhile, the counselor will discuss the various strategies employed to prevent and address bullying incidents, such as peer mediation programs, social-emotional learning curriculum, and regular awareness campaigns.

  3. Throughout the school year, put up reminders, such as posters promoting kindness, respect, and empathy, to reiterate the fact that your school is a bullying-free environment in the hallways, classrooms, and common areas. 

    Encourage your students to create artwork and projects centered around anti-bullying themes and showcase the best ones on bulletin boards.These visual cues serve as constant reminders of the school's commitment to fostering a positive and accepting community.

  4. Every once in a while, hold a school assembly and make it more engaging by including interactive activities that demonstrate how students can contribute to a positive school environment.

    For example, you can have students role-playing scenarios from our Bullying Prevention Kit where they act out different bullying situations and discuss appropriate responses. 

    As a result, your students will understand the impact of their actions and be empowered to become active participants in creating a supportive and safe learning environment.

According to a research study conducted by the National Library of Medicine, using anti-bullying policies for harassment prevention has a success rate of 20%. That’s a comforting number that has the potential to increase the more the policy is implemented and reiterated.

Positive Action’s anti-bullying program tackles the issue from several fronts, including school culture, community engagement, and parental involvement

By combining all these strategies, you are equipped with a comprehensive approach that provides victim support and teacher training, aiding students in navigating seemingly intense social situations.

Bonus Tip: Other than introducing bullying prevention initiatives, here are two more ways of preventing bullying in schools.

Get Empowered to Make Your Classroom a Bully-Free Zone

As teachers, it's our responsibility to ensure that all students feel safe and supported in our classrooms. We must remain vigilant and watchful for any signs of bullying so that we can take immediate action and stop it.

Implementing a school-wide anti-bullying policy is by far the most effective way to ensure that all your students are in a safe learning environment that empowers them to focus on academic achievement.

Positive Action provides an evidence-based anti-bullying curriculum based on the philosophy that children feel good about themselves when they engage in positive actions.

The Thoughts-Actions-Feelings circle helps students reinforce the actions that promote a healthy and positive cycle.

The curriculum teaches them to treat others with respect, friendliness, kindness, cooperation, and positivity in the same way they would like to be treated.

Positive Action teaches empathy and acceptance of others. The children are guided through lessons on how they would feel if they were different from others. The children begin to realize that kindness and helping others can be positive actions.” - Suzee Fujihara, a teacher at Lihikai Elementary School

We would love to invite you on a 30-minute interactive overview webinar where we will go through our bullying prevention program model, its implementation, research, and answer any questions you may have. 

Simply email us at to schedule a meeting with one of our helpful consultants.

Learn More: Anti-bullying programs can decrease bullying behavior by up to 25%. This 2013 study by the Congressional Research Service proves that they really work.


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