Top Five Ways to Promote Ally Behavior in Students

by Guest Contributors

In recognition of Bullying Prevention Month, HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools program is sharing key strategies to help educators engage in this important work with students.

Post submitted by Kimmie Fink, Welcoming Schools Facilitator

Bullying in schools is as pervasive as it is damaging to all involved parties -- and it’s also preventable. According to Welcoming Schools Director Cheryl Greene, the single most important way to address bullying behavior is to “promote positive ally behavior.” 

In recognition of Bullying Prevention Month, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Welcoming Schools program is sharing key strategies to help educators engage in this important work with students. 

1. Model upstander behavior. Students watch what you do and will follow your lead. They notice when you treat others with kindness and respect, as well as whether you intervene to put a stop to hurtful name-calling or comments. 

2. Explicitly teach students how to be an ally. Recognize that direct confrontation isn’t always a comfortable or even safe choice. Work with your students so they know that being an ally does not always mean intervening in a harmful situation. Students should know they can also let an adult know when bullying occurs, or they can comfort the person being bullied and offer to go with them to speak with an adult.

3. Practice. Rehearsal is an essential part of mastering any new skill. Talk and even role play possible scenarios. Try the Welcoming Schools’ activity “Making Decisions: Ally or Bystander,” in which students consider different bullying situations and decide in the moment how they will respond.

4. Share books to engage students. In Katherine Otoshi’s “One,” Red picks on Blue. The other colors don’t know what to do until One shows them how to stand up, stand together and count. Go to Welcoming Schools’ “Power of Allies” book list to find more books that highlight the positive impact of allies.

5. Utilize Welcoming Schools’ ally lessons. In “Standing Up for Each Other: Drawing Ally Superheroes,” students create a cartoon version of themselves with non-violent superpowers that help others in their school or solve a problem in the world. For more ally lessons, see Welcoming Schools’ “Lesson Plans to Prevent Bias-Based Bullying.”

Fostering ally behavior in school is all about empowerment. When children have the skills, permission and confidence to intervene, they are more likely to do so -- and a school in which kids identify as allies is a safer, happier, more productive place.

HRC Foundation's Welcoming Schools is the nation's premier professional development program providing training and resources to elementary school educators to: 

  • Welcome diverse families;
  • Create LGBTQ- and gender-inclusive schools;
  • Prevent bias-based bullying;
  • Support transgender and non-binary students.