Join the #ADDUPSTANDER Campaign | Not in Our Town

Join the #ADDUPSTANDER Campaign


Upstander has become an essential term for challenging bullying and intolerance in our culture. With over 13 million students being bullied a year, bullying remains an epidemic in the United States. However, research shows that bullying stops in less than 10 seconds 57% of the time when an somoene--an upstander--intervenes.*

Upstander: n. A person who chooses to take positive action in situations where individuals are being harmed or in the face of injustice in society.

Help NIOT and the Coalition members spread this petition to get “upstander” into the dictionary, and SIGN THE PETITION!

Get the word out! Use the hashtag #addupstander in social media to show the world that you are un upstander.


The #addupstander campaign is simple: a coalition of individuals, organizations and partners is working together to petition the Merriam Webster and Oxford English Dictionaries to include the word upstander in their next digital and print editions. Supporters can sign the official petition, hosted by, and share on social media. To help us spread the word, please send multiple social media messages on FB, Twitter, and instagram about this campaign.


Students Monica Mahal and Sarah Decker

It was Not In Our School activists Monica Mahal and Sarah Decker, former students from Watchung High School, who were the first to petition to put the word upstander into the dictionary.

“I was confused as to why upstander wasn’t a word that was listed in the dictionary,” says New York University freshman Monica Mahal, who, along with her high school friend Sarah Decker, a Bucknell University freshman, initiated the petition. “I looked up the new words that were added to the dictionary last year, and it irked me,” says Mahal. Both were leaders in the Watchung Regional High School Not In Our School Campaign that spread across their region in New Jersey. “We decided to take action.”

Their efforts even included motivating the New Jersey State assembly to implement legislation to have the word added to the dictionary. This July, an Oxford University Press blog stated “At the moment, upstander does not quite meet the criteria for inclusion in Oxford Dictionaries, but if usage continues and expands, it could be a strong candidate in the future. The New Jersey Senate’s resolution is a powerful indication of the word’s potential significance, but the best way to ensure that upstander is ultimately added to dictionaries is for its supporters to use it as often as possible. If the word spreads among more and more English speakers, evidence for it will continue to mount, and its fate—not just in the dictionary, but in the English language itself—will be secure.”


Upstander behavior needs to be recognized and celebrated, and most of all, officially legitimized. It is commonly accepted that language is the main way in which cultural knowledge is communicated. Through the development of language, which is alive and in constant evolution, we can affect changes in our own attitudes and culture. By adding upstander to the dictionary, we are giving children and adults a new linguistic tool to actively and positively engage in practices that can work to challenge bullying behavior and create a kinder and more empathetic world for all.

Now is the time for us to take a stand. Let's add upstander to the dictionary.

To sign the petition, click here, and to help spread the word and prove you're an upstander, use the hashtag #addupstander in social media.




*Hawkins, D.L, D.J. Pepler & W.M. Craig

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