Bullying and cyberbullying are the most prevalent forms of violence in schools today. Recent studies indicating that 3.2 million American students are bullied each year.[i] Among middle and high school students, 25% report having been the victim of cyberbullying, and 16% report that they have cyberbullied others.[ii] Often, bullying leads to other negative and anti-social behaviors.[iii] For example, students who bully are more likely than their peers to have a criminal conviction by age 24, are at higher risk for other delinquent and violent behaviors.[iv] [v] Students who are bullied are more likely than their peers to experience social isolation, health problems, anxiety and depression, and to face academic challenges, such as, school avoidance and lower academic achievement.[vi] [vii] [viii] [ix]
Dignity For All, Urban Tech’s research-based bullying prevention program, aims to combat these statistics by creating safe and supportive school environments through guided questioning, storytelling, role-playing, and collaborative discussion. The curriculum helps to encourage students to develop an understanding of the relationship between their views, values, and decisions, and to examine and change their behavior when needed. This method of coaching is not meant to provide solutions for students, but to help them develop their own solutions to conflicts within themselves as well as with others.
DFA’s teacher guides include in-depth descriptions of the research in neuroscience, restorative justice, and empathy upon which the curriculum is based. Urban Tech strives to give teachers the tools they need to coach their students on a personal level and bring negative, subconscious internal dialogue to the surface, to deal effectively with emotions and help develop positive reactions to stressful situations. With these skills, teachers and students can turn negative internal feedback into positive thought cycles in order to raise self-awareness and overcome the pattern of thought that negative outcomes are inevitable, supported by a better understanding of how the brain works.
Recent findings show that empathic, caring encounters with others not only light up the pleasure centers in the brain, but also facilitate the development of integrative fibers in the brain, improving its overall function. During adolescence, two important changes are taking place in the brain: the pre-frontal cortex is developing, and the reward center is more active than the behavioral control areas, increasing emotional reactivity. Providing reflective practices and fostering empathic peer and adult relationships can greatly increase the likelihood that students will both improve their cognitive abilities and engage in more positive risk behaviors. DFA incorporates these findings to minimize bullying incidents, facilitate social and emotional learning, and lead to improved academic outcomes.
DFA is divided into three stages of learning, or Quests. Each Quest is divided into steps that are designed to inspire students through the progression of learning about the nature of bullying, the role of school climate, its impact on their lives and personal goals, and effective skills that will help them sustain a safe and supportive learning environment.
Quest 1: Knowledge Acquisition presents the foundational elements of bullying, and provides lessons in understanding the roles in the bullying cycle. Most students inherently know what bullying is and have experienced it in some form, but they do not always understand what role they play or whether they have the power to change their behavior. In Quest 1, students learn to define bullying using YLA’s ACID test, recognize bullying dynamics, and understand how these concepts relate to everyday life.
Quest 2: Attitude Shift allows students to examine their core beliefs, essential needs, and long-term goals. They use their new knowledge about the brain to weigh the benefits of reflection and empathy and play interactive games and activities that inspire both students and teachers to think critically about the benefits of a safe and supportive environment. Students employ mindfulness exercises using BAND, the YLA tool for reflection, and tie their own personal goals and interests to the goals and interests of the group.
Quest 3: Behavior Transformation focuses on tasks that turn the theoretical into the practical. Students create value statements, identify and practice skills that support those values, and examine restorative justice. Collaborative activities and digital projects help create reflective communities, safe environments, and a sense of connection to their school and community.
For more information, to donate to the DFA campaign, or to purchase DFA for your school, please click here.
 DCD, 2012; NCES, 2013
 Cyberbullying Research Center, 2015
 Mishne & Sawyer, 2012
 Olweus, 1993
 Nansel et al., 2001; Farrington, 1993
 Rigby, 2003
 Baldry, 2004
 Slee, 1994
 Clarke & Kiselica, 1997