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How to Turn Bullying into Team Building: SEL in Action

8 May 2017, Comments: Comments Off on How to Turn Bullying into Team Building: SEL in Action
SEL Bullying Urban Tech


Before you read on, take three guesses about the following bullying statistics.

  1. How many students are victims of bullying each year?
  2. How many students drop out of school because of bullying?
  3. How many US states specifically protect LGBTQ students’ rights?


Every year, 3.2 million students experience bullying. 1 in 10 students drop out of school because of the effects bullying has on their physical and mental well-being. In America, 31 states have no enumerated anti-bullying laws to protect against bullying based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and 10 states actively prohibit school districts from enumerating laws that protect specific populations.

But what, precisely, is bullying? There are typically three components included in its definition today: unwanted and aggressive behavior, occurring repeatedly over time, and involving a real or perceived imbalance of power. This definition applies to any type of bullying, whether it is verbal, social, or physical.

In recent years, the widespread use of social media by students has led to the emergence of cyberbullying. Today, 91% of teenagers access the internet on cell phones or other mobile devices, and 87% have witnessed this form of bullying take place. Of the teens surveyed, 81% believe that cyberbullies feel their actions are humorous. Cyberbullying can take place anywhere and at any time, but is also more difficult to watch for and intervene in due to its virtual nature.

Rather than reacting punitively to each instance of bullying that occurs, YLA believes that the most effective bullying prevention can be achieved by teaching students how to act with empathy and work together to resolve conflict through communication, with the goal of reducing bullying incidents. YLA’s curricula, recognized by Harvard University and the Ford Foundation, have served over 450,000 students and include three modules specific to bullying prevention, conflict resolution and team building.

Each module sets clear goals to build onto the next in the series. Bullying Prevention focuses on identifying the effects of anger and frustration, as well as the characteristics of bullying behavior; Conflict Resolution teaches students to analyze conflict resolutions styles, facilitate rational discussion and take responsibility for one’s behavior; and Team Building helps students exercise self-affirmation and contribute within a team environment.

YLA’s Bullying Prevention module begins by teaching students to identify bullying behavior and to recognize the three groups involved in an incident: the bully (or bullies), the bystanders, and the upstanders. The module emphasizes the power of empathy and highlights various types of stress responses, encouraging students’ awareness of their own response style to help them modify their behavior when needed and work through high-stress or aggressive situations.

The Conflict Resolution module works off of these exercises to teach students to collaborate and negotiate mutually acceptable situations. This is achieved primarily through role-playing games to give students greater insight into opposite sides of an argument in a more relaxed environment, and to demonstrate the effects negative language or aggressive behavior can have in an escalated circumstance.

From here, students apply conflict resolution skills to the Team Building module with the goal of practicing self-affirmation and the affirmation of others, and of fostering mutual trust to work together successfully. Students are able to evaluate the progress they’ve made through each of the three modules by analyzing their team’s results and assessing their own emotional responses.

Each module uses YLA’s proven methods and includes quizzes, ice breaker activities, video exercises, journal entries, games, and quizzes. Together, these modules create a frame on which schools can build a non-threatening environment to help students thrive. More information on each module can be found here.