Bully Free Summer Camps

“I have the conviction that a few weeks in a well-organized summer camp may be of more value educationally than a whole year of formal school work.”

Charles Eliot, Former president, Harvard University, 1922

Summer camping celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. Frederick Gunn and his wife Abigail founded the Gunnery Camp in 1861. They were the headmasters of the Home School for boys in Washington, Connecticut and took the whole school on a two-week trip, hiking to their destination where they set up camp. Camp activities included boating, fishing and trapping. The program was so successful that they continued it for the next twelve summers.

Although we certainly don’t live in a bully free world the goal for every summer camp, residential, day, adult, should be to banish bullying behavior by transforming the culture of pain, rage and revenge to one of kindness, empathy and healing. The camp setting is an excellent opportunity to create an environment of kindness and respect starting with the youngest campers, modeled by administration and staff down the line including kitchen staff and grounds keepers.

Please share your camp experiences that have been in a bully free environment as well as those that might have included bullying behavior.

Cyber bullying at Summer Camps is Now a Year Round Problem

Summer camping has celebrated its 150 year anniversay. Yet in spite of these many years of camping experience, extensive independent research and high standards the very serious of problem of bullying at camp is very painful for the campers involved. To compound the problem cyber bullying before and after camp has created a year round bullying situation for some campers.

How can camps prevent cyber bullying?


Jack had been a student in a mid-size, Midwestern, co-ed private school since kindergarten. Tim entered his class in fifth grade. When the boys were in sixth grade Tim started to bully Jack. Whenever Jack did something that their classmates thought was “cool” Tim would belittle him in front of his friends. Tim used an ongoing barrage of verbal bullying. Jack did not want to tell his parents because he was afraid that their intervention would only make things worse. However, Jack’s parents noted a marked change in his behavior and finally convinced Jack to tell them what was bothering him.

They respected his wish for them not to intervene until he started to wake up in the middle of the night vomiting.

They met with the middle school principal who in turn met with Jack and Tim individually and then together. She also had a conference with Tim’s parents. She told Tim that any further bullying was unacceptable and would have serious consequences. She also informed Tim that she would speak to each of their teachers who would be instructed to report any bullying incidents.

Tim told the principal that he was being bullied “big time” by his two older stepbrothers. His parents were shocked by this disclosure and in a sense Jack “rescued” Tim from an intolerable situation.

The bullying did stop and Jack’s mom credits the principal for the successful intervention. “The principal really stayed on top of the situation.” But it took until 8th grade for the boys to become friends. Jack told us that it was “awkward and painful” and it was not till 10th grade for them to be “real close”. “It was a long healing process,” Jack said.

The boys are now high school graduates. We asked Jack why none of his friends “stood up for him during these bullying episodes”.

“You have to understand, this was sixth grade when everyone if vying for social status. It is a very tough time.”

Jack was willing to share his very painful experience with us because he wants other middle school students to know what a tough time it is for everyone. He also stressed that it is really important to report bullying incidents to a trusted adult and that healing takes a long time, in his case four years.

Physical Bullying

According to the World Health Organization, “In one year, firearms killed zero children in Japan, 19 in Great Britain, 57 in Germany, 109 in France, 153 in Canada and 5,285 in the United States.

How can we allow this and what can we do about it?