Let's make childhood bully-free

What if every student, however different, could enjoy their school years without fear of being bullied or harassed?

Photo of Nicholas Carlisle
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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

I was the target of bullying at school. Because I was small, I was called “the Runt” . Students paid other students to steal my clothes, my food, my homework and to beat me up between classes. They punched me so hard in the belly that I could not breathe. The most painful part however was the loneliness of rejection, never hearing a kind word or a having a reassuring hand on my shoulder. My parents complained to the school, who threatened the bullies with punishment, which in turn made my situation ten times worse.
I was faced with a choice of believing that I did not deserve to belong or following my heartfelt conviction that humanity is much greater than this. And it’s this conviction that sent me on a journey to fight for human rights and to create an organization to end the bullying that so many of us endured at school.
We discovered early on that bullying was driven by societal prejudices and it marginalized students because they were different. It wasn't enough to address safety. We had to help schools create a culture where all students belong. We reframed the work of school leaders as leading culture change and we showed them how to run a No Bully campaign. Because punishment was not working we developed an intervention that leveraged student empathy and engaged students as changemakers. Those first schools suggested we call it "Solution Team" and told us that these teams were solving over 90% of cases. The word that we kept hearing was "magical".

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, Caucasian)

Website

nobully.org

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • California

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]

San Francisco

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • California

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

Many cities across the US. In California the list begins with Alameda, Antioch, Bay Point, Bellflower, Belmont, Clearlake Oaks, Concord, Corte Madera, Dixon, Fairfax, Fairfield, Fremont, Gustine, Kentfield, Lafayette, Lakewood, Lincoln, Linden, Los Altos, Los Angeles, Milbrae, Mill Valley, Napa, Norwalk, Novato, Oakland, Pacifica, Petaluma, Rancho Mirage, Redwood City, Rescue, Roseville, Ross, San Anselmo, San Diego, San Fernando, San Francisco, San Geronimo, San Jose, San Leandro, San Mateo ..

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

One third of children and adolescents worldwide experience bullying on a regular basis. (UNICEF 2014). Targets are at risk of physical harm and long-lasting mental health effects similar to other adverse childhood traumas. Particularly at risk are students from minority races and religions, immigrant and lower socio-economic families, gay and lesbian youth, and students with physical and mental disabilities. Most teachers have received no training in how to respond. Typically, schools deny they have bullying, or suspend or expel bullying students. Exclusionary responses fail to promote social skill development in bullying students and often lead to further violence against the target. We focus our solution on schools since they hold the systemic levers to change the culture in which bullying flourishes. We showed staff that student empathy is far more powerful than punishment.

Most educators have received no training in how to stop student bullying. Typically, schools engage in denial, or suspend or expel students. These exclusionary responses fail to promote skill development in bullying students and often lead  to retaliation against the target.  Additionally suspensions disproportionately target students of color, lead to unsafe school environments and contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline.

Under the No Bully System school leaders are coached how to lead culture change on their campus and drive systemic change so that all students are included and accepted for who they are.   When an incident of bullying or cyberbullying occurs, No Bully Schools are trained to bring together a Solution Team of students and leverage their empathy to end incidents of bullying among their peers.

No Bully’s internal tracking research demonstrates that Solution Teams solve over 90% of case of bullying.  In 2012 Solution Team was awarded a First Prize in the global competition organized by Ashoka Changemakers for how it activates student empathy to achieve social impact.  In 2013, No Bully was funded through California Proposition 63 (mental health) to train 23 Bay Area schools how to implement the No Bully System.  After No Bully these schools were able to achieved 96% success in remedying incidents of bullying.  In 2015 the National Institute of Justice recognized the No Bully System® as a breakthrough solution and is funding a long-term study in the Oakland Unified School District to measure school success in solving incidents after they have been trained by No Bully.

The No Bully System® is innovative in five major ways:

  • It educates school leadership teams on how to lead culture change and coaches them to mobilize the whole school community of teachers, parents and students behind a new social vision statement.   A powerful vision statement is central to developing a a strong and positive culture.  It unifies the community around a "story of us" that distinguishes the school's uniqueness.  When schools engage their community in developing the vision statement it becomes the guiding philosophy for all the school's initiatives around student wellbeing and safety. 
  • No Bully challenges the traditional view of bullying as an issue solely between the bully and the target.   When a student is the target of bullying, a teacher convenes a Solution Team comprised of the bully, bully-followers and positive student leaders, assures them they are not in trouble, explains how the target is feeling, and solicits their solutions for addressing the situation.  Solution Team operationalizes insights from systems theory that we can only affect real change through engaging the larger peer group. Instead of the typical top-down punitive approach, No Bully engages students to end bullying of peers. 
  • Solution Team puts into action the recent findings of neuroscience and evolutionary biology that humans are wired for cooperation and compassion from the first years of life onwards.  Translated to the school setting, this research confirms that the vast majority of students have empathy for their peers when schools create the conditions that support these behaviors. 
  • It expands the capacity of teachers and school staff to address any mental health, familial, and social/emotional skill challenges that lead to and are caused by students becoming either a bully or a victim.
  • It raises teacher consciousness of the diversity issues that drive bullying (e.g. race, gender, sexual orientation, disability and religion) and gives them tools to support students in feeling safe and proud to develop a unique identity.

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Children who are differently abled
  • LGBTQ or non-binary individuals
  • Religious minorities (non-Christian)
  • Low-income communities

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Childcare
  • Child and Family Services
  • Community Development and Empowerment
  • Criminal Justice
  • Education
  • Mental Health

Year Founded

2009

Project Stage

  • Scaling (the solution has passed the previous stages, and the next step will be growing its impact on a regional or global scale)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

The school principal attends a No Bully leadership coaching session with a couple of teachers, a parent and counselor. They create a new social vision for their school based on inclusivity. This team continues to meet six times over the year to integrate the No Bully System into the culture of the school. All the teachers and adults who work on campus then assemble for a No Bully foundational training, develop a common language and resolve to end bullying. Ten teachers return for a one-day Solution Coach® training and learn how to run Solution Teams. Parents and guardians go through training in how to bully-proof their kids. Students feel increasingly safe to be different, to stand up for each other and to ask for help if needed.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

We are wrapping up one year partnerships with 85 schools in California, Rhode Island, Utah, New York, Delaware, Hawaii and Hong Kong - reaching over 40,000 students. We ask the schools to track their success in stopping incidents of bullying through a Solution Team® Log. They use the log to ask the target about the intensity and frequency of bullying, and his or her current sense of safety at school on three occasions: (i) when the bullying first comes to the attention of the Solution Coach (ii) directly following the Solution Team intervention, and (iii) at a three month follow-up. Dr. Moira DeNike, an independent evaluator, analyses the logs. The data is not all in but we anticipate that it will match earlier years that consistently show the schools are solving 90 percent of cases of bullying. In parallel we expect to see the schools develop cultures of inclusivity.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • $500k - $1m

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

While schools are the focus of our work, few are able to cover the cost to No Bully of providing them with a one-year partnership. No Bully supplements its fee for service income with a diversified mix of corporate sponsorships, grants, events and donor cultivation. We are deeply grateful to Hasbro, TOMS, Bank of the West and Abercrombie & Fitch for their significant support. We will continue to expand the partners that join our cause.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

A Google search for anti-bullying program reveals 41 million results. Programs range from whole school initiatives that seek to shift school culture to inspirational student assemblies. The former programs are expensive and time-consuming (e.g. Olweus) and at their best create an average 20% reduction in bullying. Student assemblies on the other hand tend to be emotionally stirring but leave no lasting change. No Bully is not only about awareness but also institutionalizing systemic change so that schools both develop a culture of inclusion and respond effectively when bullying occurs.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

The No Bully System is part of a series of seven systemic changes that schools need to adopt to support the social and emotional wellbeing of their students and to become a socially and emotionally intelligent school. The #1 defining characteristic is that all teachers and students place a premium on stepping into the shoes of others to see the world through their eyes. There are six other characteristics that we identified as forming a guiding philosophy to bring together the many organizations that work in schools to achieve collective impact in student wellbeing: see http://bit.ly/2btvhXD

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Changemakers.com
  • Email

Program Design Clarity

Our beneficiaries are the students in elementary, middle and high schools across the US. We partner with schools for the duration of a school year and show their teachers how to institutionalize the needed systemic changes so that students are free from bullying from other students. The No Bully School Partnership is an integrated series of three leadership coaching sessions, training for all teachers how to recognize & interrupt bullying, a one-day training for select staff in how to run solution teams and a parent workshop in how to ensure their child is neither a bully or a target.

Community Leadership

Bullying is a citywide issue best tackled through community collaboration. Whenever possible No Bully brings together the school district with the Mayor’s office, local police and corporate sponsors to create a unified No Bully initiative. In parallel we coach the leadership team in each school how to engage parents, teachers and students in creating a unique social vision statement for their community as a platform for a bully-free campus.

Age of Children Impacted

  • 6 - 12
  • 12+

Spread Strategies

No Bully has shown proof of concept and is now poised to scale the No Bully System® to schools across the US and internationally through an online open source learning platform. We have established strategic partnerships with Commonsense Media and others in the field to promote school adoption of our solution. In 2017 we will partner with UNESCO and Facebook to launch a global consortium for collaborative impact on cyberbullying.

Reflect on how your work helps children to thrive. How are you cultivating children’s sense of self, belonging, and purpose through your model?

Bullying is a direct attack on student identity formation and sense of agency. The No Bully System ends bullying through supporting a culture where difference is accepted and all students find belonging. The school begins by teaching of social and emotional learning to all students. When bullying occurs students experience a lesson in applied empathy through their service on a solution team and reflect on how it was to be a changemaker.

Leadership Story

I discovered early in No Bully's existence that bullying is driven by societal prejudices and marginalizes students because they are different. We had to find a way to help schools create a culture where all students belong in order to achieve social justice and equal access to education for all. I made the first goal of our school partnerships coaching school leaders how to campaign for culture change and how to build a culture based on the twin values of compassion and inclusiveness. My deeper goal has become giving students an experience of being with diverse others to take into adulthood.

What awards or honors has the project received? (Optional)

In 2012 Solution Team was awarded a First Prize in the global competition organized by Ashoka Changemakers for how it activates student empathy to achieve social impact.
In 2015 Nicholas Carlisle was invited by the US Consulate in Spain to give a TedX talk on bullying and the No Bully solution.

Organization's Twitter Handle

@nobully_org

Organization’s Facebook Page (URL)

https://www.facebook.com/nobullynobully_org

Leader's LinkedIn Profile (URL)

https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicholascarlisle

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Photo of Tambra Raye Stevenson
Team

Given recent story on a young boy who committed suicide due to bullying in New York, your program is timely and relevant. You made the case, did your homework and showed your value. I wish you the best on the continued impactful work!

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