“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Bullying Prevention  goes hand in hand with honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who stood up for what he believed in, even when that was a very difficult thing to do. Martin Luther King Jr. serves as an exemplar for students who are striving to become allies to their bullied peers, rather than mere bystanders. In honor of Martin Luther King Day, here are two examples  of schools who have done an amazing job empowering their students to stand up for and care for one another.

The Bully Patrol

In order to reduce bullying and improve school climate, The Lafayette Township School, located in Lafayette, New Jersey, created the Bully Patrol. This student led effort began at their county’s Anti-Bullying Youth Summit where the students made an action plan to reduce bullying in their school. After some discussion and debate, the students decided that pairs of 7th graders would serve as mentors to elementary school classes twice a week during recess time. After receiving unanimous support from the elementary school teachers and encouragement from the school administrators, they put a schedule in place and got started.

Alice Sensale, the teacher who spearheaded the project, explains that the older students do much more than play alongside the younger ones. They serve as mediators between students engaged in a small argument. They organize games and activities for the group and provide academic support when needed. Most importantly, they act as role models, inviting children they notice playing by themselves to join in with others.

The 7th graders presence hasn’t been just a fun addition; it has created a lasting impact.

The elementary school teachers have observed that the children who tended to play alone have become more integrated into their peer group, even on the days the Bully Patrol doesn’t visit. Alice credits the program’s success to careful organization and the students’ dedication to their roles. David Astor, the Chief School Administrator, adds that the program works well because the school has a strong character education program integrated throughout the curriculum. The character education program provided a solid foundation for the creation of the Bully Patrol.

Positive Instagram-ing

Another school that found a creative approach to bullying prevention is Academie Lafayette, a K-8 French Immersion school in Kansas City, Missouri. Lara Troutner, guidance counselor at the school, explained that she noticed a problem with students posting unkind remarks about each other on Instagram. She addressed the 7th and 8th grades about the power of words, and how even digitally unkind words can hurt and how kind words can help.

Two friends, inspired by this message, worked to improve their school by anonymously beginning an Instagram page called AL Cheer. On the page, they posted pictures of 7th and 8th grade students, captioned with positive character traits. The students were excited to see the posts and eager to earn spots on the page. Lara explains that although she monitored the site, she did so quietly. She recognized and appreciated that this was a student-driven project, which is what helped make it so successful.

Although the students took great pride in the fact that they initiated this project themselves, Lara believes a staff member or student organization could successfully implement a similar program. In addition to considering a similar program at your school, Lara has a  bit more advice for schools struggling with cyberbullying. Most importantly, she suggests being very involved. Treat cyberbullying the same way you’d treat bullying if you saw it in the hallway. The consequences should be the same. They need to know someone is holding them accountable.

In honor of Martin Luther King Day, consider increasing bullying prevention efforts at your school by participating in No Name Calling Week, January 19-23. Learn more about it here and check out this video to hear the GLSEN Teen Ambassadors’ suggestions for getting involved.