CODE OF SILENCE: Assess Bystander Behavior in the School Setting

Schools embrace a range of student discipline measures including zero tolerance and restorative practices.  In addition, schools are becoming increasingly efficient with threat reporting (input) systems, such as anonymous text numbers and online submission software.  However, the piece often not studied is what student bystanders do when they are aware of a potential act of violence against another others in the school environment.  When developing school “climate” surveys, include a construct focused upon bystander actions – better yet, interview students!

“School systems are likely to be aware of how students and staff respond when they see aggressive behavior in public areas.  However, they may be less knowledgeable about what bystanders do when they witness concealed displays of aggression, have information about violent events that may happen, or observe nonspecific warning signs of violence risk.  The first step is to identify what bystanders actually do in these situations.  Such information, which can be collected through observations, discussions, and brief surveys of potential bystanders, can raise awareness about bystander issues and provide a benchmark for measuring change.”

Rethinking the Bystander Role in School Violence Prevention by Stueve, et. al., 2006.