What is an Upstander?

Asking Lenape’s Students What Being an Upstander Means to Them


“Upstander” is a term used across the country. This is from a T-shirt sold from the Dallas Holocaust Museum.

I asked people throughout my day one question: what is an Upstander? Through the Week of Respect and Violence Awareness Week, we, as a school, have been reminded to show exemplary compassion and responsible restrain when confronted. Interestingly enough, the most common response to my question was, “One who upstands.”

But that didn’t satisfy me. It was a joke, not the sincere response that I was looking for, so I asked them again, told them that their response would be anonymous so that their reputation had no effect on what they were going to say, gave them a second to gather their thoughts,  and this is what some of the students of Lenape said:


What is an Upstander?

“Someone who stands up for others.”

“An all around good person.”

“Someone who isn’t afraid to stop someone from saying or doing something wrong.”

“A person who is bold enough to interrupt bullying.”

“An Upstander is a person who tries to be nice to everyone.”

“I don’t know, someone who tries to stop people when they cross a line?”

“Someone who upstands, or stands up, for the light of righteousness.”


These are all good responses. It means that students understand what the entire campaign is trying to convey.  It’s to be a good person, to stand up to bullies, and glow with the “light of righteousness.”

students understand what the entire campaign is trying to convey

To me, an upstander is a person who is nice to everyone, does not hold a grudge, identifies and stops anything that is simply wrong, and tries to make the attitudes of everyone around them more positive by exhibiting a positive attitude themselves. It’s a mindset. It’s trying to be the best person you can be, and helping others be the best they can be as well.

As many of you remember, James Clementi visited our school recently and was involved in an assembly during the Week of Respect. He spoke of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and of the Upstander Pledge on their website. Here is the link to it: http://www.tylerclementi.org/pledge/. If you want to read more about Tyler Clementi’s brother, James, be sure to look out for Jack Watson’s article that will be out in the near future.

What does a Upstander mean to you? Do you have any additional comments? I’d love to hear them, be sure to comment below!