Studies have shown that, at some time, 85% of students witness negative interactions among other students. Passive and negative bystanders empower the actor and dis-empower the victim. Bystanders do not intervene for a number of reasons: They fear retaliation, they are afraid they might do the wrong thing and make it worse, they de-value the victim, they are inhibited by diffusion of responsibility (no one is taking leadership), and/or they may be affected by pluralistic ignorance (all present act as if there is no problem).
Research shows that when student bystanders are active, they perform better in school, as do the students they help. Active bystandership is not aggressive. It can take many forms: Comments that help defuse the situation, disapproval by witnesses of harmful actions, expressions of caring about the target, casually removing the target from the group of aggressors, or finding an authority figure to intervene. Positive bystanders can gain substantial power by turning to each other and joining together to take constructive action.