This activity was designed by COPA with funding from the Telus Foundation.

This activity was created by COPA with funding from the Telus Foundation and technical design by SocialTech.

COPA (Centre ontarien de prevention des agressions) is a Francophone not-for-profit organization offering services in both French and English. Founded in 1995, we are a recognized centre of excellence in the field of violence and bullying prevention by advocating for equity and inclusion.

COPA provides schools and communities with unique multimedia educational resources, as well as training, professional development and opportunities for capacity-building and consultation.

COPA works with provincial and local organizations and institutions across Ontario, such as parent groups, schools, boards, teachers’ unions, women’s groups, cultural, health and community centres and settlement agencies.

COPA’s unique approach is based on individual and collective empowerment, founded on principles of social justice to bring about positive change.

COPA cares deeply about human rights, especially those of children and all marginalized groups. We all belong.

To learn more about COPA, visit our website at or email us at

Also, please explore our related educational sites:

Making jokes about a person behind their back.

Scenario /

A couple of friends of yours do not like a new student in your class.

They make a lot of jokes about this person behind their back both in real life and online. They start a private group and post photos of this student making fun of the way they look.

No one has the right to make mean comments about the way another person looks, whether this person knows about it or not.

You probably hear people excuse something cruel they’ve done by calling it a joke. But joke is when someone says something funny to get everyone to laugh.

If someone tells a joke that is meant to get some people to laugh at another, it’s just mean. It’s a hurtful comment that’s meant to make someone feel bad. They cover up their cruelty by calling it a joke.

If you’re having a hard time deciding if something is a joke or not ask yourself if it would hurt your feelings or not if it was directed at you.

If the joke was about another person, are they laughing? Do they really think it’s funny?

The person being ridiculed might pretend to find it funny, thinking that not showing their hurt feelings will make the situation less embarrassing. But if someone is singled out and embarrassed, we can’t call it a joke. It hurts. It’s a form of assault. It can be a big part of bullying too.

There are two kinds of assault that have taken place here:

  • Psychological (because it’s meant to make the person feel terrible)
  • Verbal (because words are being used to hurt someone).

What you can do

Your Options /

Even if this person isn’t your friend, you can still stand up for them.

And it’s pretty important to do this. It can change everything, and especially make the person who’s being targeted feel less alone and lonely.

What could you do to stop this situation from continuing?


Tell people in the group that you feel uncomfortable.

Sometimes being clear, and saying it like it is in a calm and respectful way can work.

You could post a message in the group that says…

  • Hey everyone, I really don’t feel good being about this. It’s making me feel bad.
  • I’ve been thinking about it and I would feel pretty awful if people were talking about me in this way. What do you think?
  • Do you think we could shut this down? I’m not feeling this.

Find a way not to participate in the group.

We know that it can be hard to speak your mind directly.

If you don’t feel comfortable saying something to your friends, you can also just decide not to participate…

After all, sometimes, actions can speak louder than words.

You could…

  • Leave the conversation in the online group.
  • Report the group. (Some websites (like Facebook) will let you report these kinds of groups without saying who you are).
  • Tell your friends that there’s a glitch on your phone or computer and you don’t see the group.
  • When your friends talk about the online group, change the topic of conversation.

Remember, the idea is to not sit around and watch it all happen, but to do something so that your friends see that you don’t want to be involved in it. You will probably feel better for it.

Finding someone you trust to talk to about it can work too.


Be positive.

Throwing in a compliment here and a kind word there about the person that’s being bullied can actually make a big difference. People say so all the time.

It can be a great way to drain the negativity out of a situation. And show you don’t want to be part of the cruelty.

Whenever your friends say something mean about this person (online or face-to-face) you could say:

  • Actually, I heard that (insert name here) is really cool.
  • Did you know that (insert name here) is great at (insert a thing that this person is good at)? I saw them do it the other day and it was incredible.
  • I know you might not be the biggest fan of (insert name here), but once you get to know them they’re actually pretty awesome to hang out with. Give them a chance!

It takes a lot of courage to be an ally – to stand up for another person's rights and your own too!

You might be expected to, but really we know how hard it is. You might be afraid that you’ll be the next victim.

Knowing this, we think it’s amazing that you’re making this plan.

Remember these strategies when you’re stuck in these tough situations, and they’ll help you get it through it more smoothly.

And, if one strategy doesn’t work, you can always try a different one. That’s something to always keep in mind because you never know. Each situation is different and as important as it is to stand up for others, you have to also make sure your rights are also being respected.

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