As an organization rooted in empathy, compassion, and respect, this form of bullying is especially difficult. It’s the basis for why we refrain from labelling students as bullies.

Research shows that often times students that bully others have also been bullied themselves.  The best way to explain reactive bullying is to paint you the full picture.

Imagine you were bullied throughout 3rd grade by other students.

Imagine that they didn’t want to touch you because of your skin color.

They won’t play dodgeball with you because they think your skin color might rub off on the ball, and eventually, on them.

Imagine that in 4th grade they didn’t want you to sit with them at lunch.

Now imagine how difficult that would be when the entire class must sit at the same table.

Imagine it continued throughout 5th grade.

Imagine all you have learned over those 3+ years – that in order to survive middle school, something needs to change. You can’t go on being you; the victim, the target, the weakest link.

Now imagine the possibilities of a new life in middle school. You could either endure three more years of torment, or you could change all that.

So you devised a plan to no longer be the “victim” but to stand up for yourself. To not be picked on. Ridiculed. Alienated. To take charge of your life. No one taught you how to do this in a positive way so you only practiced what you knew would help you not become a target. You practiced being the AGGRESSOR.

During the first week of middle school you put what you have learned to the test! You let everyone know you are no longer a “victim” or target, you are a force to be reckoned with. Except now, YOU ARE LABELLED THE BULLY!


This is the face of Reactive Bullying. Someone who has learned that this behavior is acceptable and now they have turned into the aggressor – and it all seems fair to them.

This is why Reactive Bullying is so difficult to deal with when you come from a place of compassion and not labelling kids as bullies. However, it is an important life lesson to teach that although you have been wronged, it doesn’t give you a license to do the same. It’s not always easy to do the right thing. It’s not always immediately rewarding. However, it is more important to treat people the way you want to be treated, especially when you know what’s on the other side.