~A project of the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida
“Upstander” is a word that has just recently come in to use (and is not yet acknowledged in dictionaries), a term coined by journalist Samantha Power to identify people who are willing to stand up and take action in defense of others. It can refer to individuals who take large risks during wars and political turmoil, and it also identifies people who take small but helpful steps to shield others from bullying and other injustices.
There is no question that school bullying affects every child. We’ve all heard stories about someone – maybe even someone we know – who would rather die than face another day of harassment and humiliation. And it’s everywhere, every day.
The Holocaust Center has begun a new project, UPSTANDERS: Stand Up to Bullying, that addresses bullying in a useful way. It is based on solid research that tells us that both victims and bullies suffer lifelong consequences for their actions, and that the single most effective intervention to interrupt bullying behavior is peer pressure from other students.
UpStanders began last December with a series of in-school presentations by John Halligan, a man whose son Ryan committed suicide after years of intense bullying. Other presentations were made to community groups, emphasizing the need for each of us to be an “UpStander” rather than a bystander in order to protect the rights and safety of others.
Students in ten Orange County Public middle schools are now involved with the project, and are learning to be UpStanders. In addition to school presentations, they are having visits to the Holocaust Center where they will work with volunteers who will help provide them with the skills and confidence they need to take the pledge:
• I will STAND UP to bullying
• I won’t be a bully
• I won’t let anyone bully me
• I won’t let anyone bully someone else
During the Holocaust, a few brave Upstanders took risks to protect others. We are encouraging young people today to follow their example. Each student can take responsibility for stopping bullying in their own school and community, and will gain a deeper appreciation of their power to make a difference.