The LGBT Health & Development Program

Youth Blog–Responding to Bullying at School

Posted on May 18th, 2016 by IMPACT in Featured, Youth Blog. No Comments

poster in style of a traffic sign saying "Bully Free Zone"

Image credit: Eddie~S, “Bully Free Zone,” May 17, 2008.

Written by John Frank, Psychology Resident.

Find Safety

When you’re bullied at school, the first thing to do is to keep yourself safe! To stay safe, you may need to ignore the bullying and leave the area as quickly as possible to find a supportive adult or authority figure.

You might want to stay and defend yourself by speaking up or fighting back. This is a normal feeling, and your choice to do this. However, it is important to know the risks. By speaking up or fighting back, you may put yourself at risk for further bullying or physical harm. You may also face disciplinary or legal consequences for fighting.

Walking away does not mean that you’re saying the bullying is okay. Rather, you’re choosing to fight in a different way – with less chance of conflict or future violence.

Whatever you choose to do, be sure to take notes about what happened and report the bullying to a school official as soon as possible.  Bullying can only be addressed if it is reported when it happens.

Find Support

It is important to remember that you are not alone in dealing with bullying. Bullying can lead to depression [1] and have a negative impact on your school experience [2]. Having social support can prevent these things [3].

Find people who are willing to listen to you and provide support. This could include friends, teachers, family members, online support groups, and LGBTQ school or community groups.

When you seek support, you may have to provide information about your sexual or gender identity. Try to reach out to people who you know will be accepting of your sexual or gender identities.

If you feel like you have no one to turn to for support, you can always contact a crisis hotline like The Trevor Project (866-488-7386).

Know Your Rights

It’s important to know what your rights are for addressing bullying and finding support.  GLSEN and the ACLU provide information about what your rights are in schools: Know Your Rights at School.

  1. You have the right to feel safe in your school and to not be bullied [4]. If you report bullying to your school and the school has not done anything to stop it, you should consider taking legal action.  Here is information about your Rights in Schools, How to Claim Your Rights, and How to Seek Support in Reporting Discrimination.
  2. You also have the right to privacy at school [4]. If you report bullying to the school, the school does not have the right to “out” you to anyone without your permission after you report the bullying.
  3. If you go to a public school that permits clubs like chess club or drama club, you have the right start a GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) or other LGBTQ student support groups [4]. Starting a GSA can be a good way to build support and create more safe spaces at school. GLSEN provides information about How to Start a GSA at Your School.

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[1] Newcomb, M. E., Heinz, A. J., Birkett, M., & Mustanski, B. (2014). A longitudinal examination of risk and protective factors for cigarette smoking among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. Journal of Adolescent Health, 55(4), 558-564. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.10.208

[2] Aragon, S. R., Poteat, V. P., Espelage, D. L., & Koenig, B. W. The influence of peer victimization on educational outcomes for LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ high school students. Journal of LGBT Youth, 11(1), 1-19. doi:10.1080/19361653.2014.840761

[3] Davis, B., Royne Stafford, M. B., & Pullig, C. (2014). How gay-straight alliance groups mitigate the relationship between gay-bias victimization and adolescent suicide attempts. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 53(12), 1271 – 1278. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2014.09.010

[4] American Civil Liberties Union (2015). LGBT high school students – What to do if you face harassment at school [Website]. Retrieved from:


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