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Bystander Education: Schools Target Inaction

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By Kamika Dunlap on November 02, 2009 1:20 PM

The gang rape and beating of a 15-year-old girl after a Richmond High School homecoming dance has caused a lot of pain not only for the victim but for the entire community.

The case sparked nationwide media attention and public outrage after learning that as many as 20 people witnessed the rape or knew about the incident and did not report it.

No one called police until a woman who was several blocks away heard people who heard people discussing what was occurring and notified the police.

Now, students and teachers will have to find a way to come together and heal.

Some educators say, bringing bystander-awareness programs to schools is a good start.

Newsweek reports that several bystander initiatives across the states already exist and teach young people how to address a problem directly, make an anonymous phone call, send a text to a friend, or divert the perpetrator.

For example, the Green Dot program was launched at the University of Kentucky three years ago. Students are encouraged to think about the "3Ds," direct action, delegation, or distraction when witnessing violence. It is also designed to improve critical thinking and bystander skills.

In some ways, helping someone in trouble often boils down to second nature and common sense.

But those instincts failed to kick in for the kids who watched their classmate brutally raped after a homecoming dance or took pictures on their cell phone of the 16-year-old honor student in Chicago who was beaten to death last month with a two-by-four after apparently stumbling into a gang fight.

More research is still needed to determine the effectiveness of bystander-awareness programs in schools but initial results look promising.

Too bad there are some natural instincts you just can't teach.


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