GHS students battle bullying with NAB IT!

A group of fifty students at Goshen High School signed up for a three-day training this April to stamp out bullying and normalize healthy peer relations.

The new Norms and Bystander Intervention Training (NAB IT!), developed by Dr. Amanda Nickerson at the University of Buffalo Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse and Prevention, provides students with a toolkit to find realistic, conscientious ways to be upstanders when they witness bullying or harassment.

“This training allows our students to collaborate with one another to recognize and prevent bullying and harassment in our school,” said GHS Principal Nick Pantaleone. “What I love most about NAB IT! is that it is student centered and focuses on peer mediation and resolution.”

The students at GHS are trailblazers; Goshen is one of four schools in New York State to participate in the Department of Homeland Security grant-funded research study on the program. Pantaleone regularly collaborates with the Mental Health Association of New York, and Director Amy Malloy contacted him to see if the high school was interested in participating.

“We want students to understand they can make a difference,” said Tina Tierney, facilitator of the training from the New York State Center for School Safety. “You have the power in what you say, what you do, and how you react.”

NAB IT! teaches students the five steps of being a bystander, which include: noticing, identifying, assuming the responsibility to help people, intervening and taking action. Aside from supporting peers after an incident, the program also gives students the chance to brainstorm creative ways to intervene. 

During the training, Tierney told students that one way to take a stand is by providing support to peers who are being bullied or harassed, rather than directly intervening. 

When prompted to come up with ways to support someone being bullied, students suggested saying “Are you okay?” or “Come over here.” Other ideas included saying “They don’t know what they’re talking about,” or “That has happened to me before.”

Other suggestions included, “Leave him/her alone,” or “You wouldn’t want someone to do that to you.” They also recommended changing the subject of the conversation if hanging out in a group, or removing the bully from a group chat if an incident occurs via text message or social media. 

“This is not easy to do,” said Tierney. “It is not always easy to respond in a way that shows empathy for a person, that tells a person what they said and did is not okay, that it had a harmful impact. But that’s why we are here, so you can be ready, so you can be an upstander.”

Dhilan Tawil, 10th grade, said new bystander intervention methods are essential for kids in high school because there is often a stigma associated with intervening. Students can become targets themselves for bullying alongside the peers they are trying to support, and risk being ostracized by those who are behind the bullying.

“This program has thankfully begun to tear that down,” Dhilan said. “Being in the same room as other peers who have the same moral values as me is so relieving because it helps you see that there is good in the world and that people really do want to help.”

Although bullying and harassment prevention often focuses on what people should not do, one parent, Stacey Orzell, said she appreciates how NAB IT! focuses on what young people can do to make a difference.

“I think it was beneficial that my son learned strategies to distract the bully to help the victim pave an escape,” Orzell said. “Without being taught that I don’t think my son may have thought to do that on his own.”

The engaging, proactive nature of the program stuck out to teachers who volunteered to support the program as well.

“Goshen is very fortunate to be one of the handful of high schools in NYS that get to pilot the NAB IT! program,” said GHS Health Educator Lyn Abrams. “I’m excited to continue next year, and look forward to the positive ripple effect it will have on our community.”