Cultivating Empathy and Preventing Bullying in Schools

Michele Borba, Ed.D., Educational Psychologist, author, and expert in bullying prevention and character development, was interviewed on Education Talk Radio for‘s monthly show by Program Host Larry Jacobs along with Lisa Schmucki, edWeb founder, and Judy Galbraith, President and founder of Free Spirit Publishing. Michele, Judy, Larry, and Lisa discussed cultivating empathy and preventing bullying.

Be a hallway heroOne of the most important things to keep in mind is that bullying can happen anywhere, to anyone. “There is no demographic where a child is safe,” said Michele. In fact, as wealth goes up, empathy goes down, which is why no school should forgo bullying prevention training. Bullying happens across zip codes, and should not be tolerated anywhere. Michele suggests the same turnaround plan everywhere she goes; tell the staff members how to step in, role play what stepping in looks like, and what it doesn’t look like, teach how to separate students if necessary, and set up staff members as go-to safety staff.

People in a bullying triangleLearning and understanding how to cultivate empathy in children is crucial when dealing with bullying. “Empathy breeds only in an environment where there is trust and caring,” said Michele. Schools must first ensure students have an environment where they feel cared about, and then they can create the empathy in students that makes them more likely to step in and help one another. Schools can help students by teaching bystanders to become upstanders, and taking steps to change the behavior of both the victims and the bullies.

Michele also teaches kids who are victims of bullying ways to stick up for themselves, such as the CALM acronym: stay cool, assert yourself, look them in the eye, and mean what you say. This teaches kids how to maintain their confidence, rather than giving the bully any power. Bullying has no boundaries and can happen anywhere. It is important to ensure students feel safe, have clear guidelines of what is expected on school grounds, and for faculty to be trained in bullying prevention.

For more ideas on cultivating empathy, watch “Cultivating Empathy: The Best Antidote to Bullying.”

Education Talk Radio
This interview was hosted by and Education Talk Radio.

Listen to the full interview below.


About the Guest

Dr. Michele Borba is an internationally recognized educational psychologist and expert in bullying prevention, social-emotional learning, and character development and has spoken to over one million participants on five continents. She is a Today Show contributor, appearing over 140 times, and has been featured as an expert on Dateline, The View, Dr. Phil, NBC Nightly News, CNN, MSNBC, Dr. Oz, Dr. Drew, and The Early Show, among others, and has been regularly quoted in national media including The New York Times, TIME, The Boston Globe, and The Washington Post. Dr. Borba has authored 24 books; her latest are UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About Me World and The 6Rs of Bullying Prevention. For more information:,, and Twitter @micheleborba.

About the Sponsor
Free Spirit PublishingFree Spirit is the leading publisher of learning tools that support young people’s social-emotional health and educational needs. We help children and teens think for themselves, overcome challenges, and make a difference in the world.