In The Bully, the Bullied, and the Not-So-Innocent Bystander, Barbara Coloroso describes a bullying situation as "a tragedy performed daily in our homes, schools, playgrounds, streets, and workplaces." This tragedy has three roles: the bully, the bullied, and the not-so-innocent bystander. These are merely temporary roles, she argues, so that we do not permanently typecast children for their roles nor do we translate the part to values that placed on individuals.
The bully and the bullied are roles that most of us can easily identify; however, we need to expand our focus to include all those who are also involved in a bullying situation. They are traditionally called bystanders, but are also referred to as witnesses. The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, the gold standard of bullying prevention programs, digs deeper into this category. In the "Bullying Circle," bystanders are divided into five categories:
- Henchmen take an active part in the behavior, but are not involved in planning.
- Active supporters are the cheerleaders who try to reap any gains from the situation.
- Passive supporters are entertained by the ordeal, but do not provide outward encouragement.
- Disengaged onlookers are disinterested in something that is "none of their business."
- Potential defenders are those who disapprove of the bullying but do not move to aid the target.
Let us not look back in anger or forward in fear, but around in awareness. ~James Thurber