paul coughlin

author | speaker | reformer

Protectors: Freedom From Bullying. Courage & Character For Life.

Why The Protectors

The Protectors, founded in 2005, was born from personal experience and a unique understanding into a fundamental weakness to existing anti-bullying programs. As a Target of bullying while in elementary school, Founder and President Paul Coughlin knows just how damaging such a campaign of cruelty can be to a person’s emotional and psychological wellbeing—damage that can harm a person well into adulthood. Some never recover.

Unlike traditional anti-bullying efforts that focus primarily upon reforming children who bully and which are historically ineffective, The Protectors focuses primarily upon the potential strength, heroic desire, and rescuing capacity of Bystanders, transforming them into what we call “Alongside Standers.” We also provide assertiveness training for Targets, help Authority dispel the many damaging myths about bullying, and inspire children who bully to employ their power in life-affirming directions instead.

Studies show that Bystanders possess the most potential power to transform what we call the “Theater of Bullying” into a theater of character, freedom and justice. One study revealed that if only one Bystander, who doesn’t even need to be popular, uses his or her assertive but non-violent words in defense of a Target, that the incident of bullying can end 58% of the time within 6 to 8 seconds. By intervening on behalf of Targets, Bystanders will not only create safer and happier schools, but also create greater character within themselves and others.

Courage: the Missing Virtue in the “Theater of Bullying” & Character Development

Studies also show that the majority of Bystanders who witness bullying know it is wrong. They feel it is wrong and often express great sadness and sympathy for the Target. Yet most fail to act as if bullying is wrong due to lack of courage. The Protectors curriculum for students and faculty, and live Courageous U Tour presentations to students and parents, provides the training, inspiration and exhortation required to grow courage, the virtue that bolsters all other virtues. Without courage, said Maya Angelou another others, we are unable to practice any virtue consistently. Such courage training is essential to any school’s character development program, since, as Aristotle explained, “We only become courageous by doing courageous deeds.”

In its landmark National Bullying Prevention Campaign (2006), the Health Resources and Services Administration identified 10 strategies that represent best practices in bullying prevention. The Protectors provides all—especially as they relate to Bystanders and courage formation, which is essential to character development and providing a lasting solution to child-on-child aggression. Specifically, the report explained how schools need to create an environment where it is “‘uncool’ to bully, [and] ‘cool’ to help out kids who are bullied.” The Protectors helps your school create a climate where courage is “cool” by celebrating Bystander intervention through Courage Awards, special presentations, and through the age-old appeal to what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature,” this heroic instinct that exists within us all to actively help others in need. Through The Protectors, children learn to become heroic, growing in character and stature, through completing heroic deeds.

The Protectors helps children of all ages understand that they can feel fear and still obey their conscience by doing the right thing anyway. We also bring to your school the remarkable “Power of Two,” where we help your students take the “buddy system” to the next school-changing level by having them defend Targets in pairs—bolstering courage, increasing success, and transforming your school one pair of courageous children at a time.

What Others Say About this Unique and Effective Approach:

I just wanted you to know how meaningful your presentation was to the students in our school district. For you to be able to talk to students in grades five through high school about bullying in a context that they could understand and appreciate, was very gratifying for us…Perhaps, more importantly, was the time you spent with our parents and neighbors from our school community. For them to hear how many ways they could actually help their own children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews grow strong and understand how bullying really works was a most profound experience for them.
Dr. Barbara Pulliam Davis, Superintendent, Green County School System, GA

Paul Coughlin’s presentation was compelling, relevant and accessible to every student. His ability to reach our students on such a complicated topic was inspiring and all of the parents who observed the presentation and said it was one of the best assemblies they had seen. Mr. Coughlin has a natural gift and, more importantly, a message that needs to be heard. Having Mr. Coughlin at our school was one of the best investments of PTO funds ever.
Katie Tso, President, Hoover Elementary PTO

Paul is very dynamic and engaged all of our students. I was impressed to see more than 350 high school students remain so attentive and captured by his presentation. He did a great job relating these issues to students and helping them understand how impacting they can be. Not only was I impressed with his presentation style, he also taught our students how to help one another and gave them strategies to use when being bullied and harassed. I strongly recommend Paul. Don’t hesitate to call for a recommendation.
Jesse Pershin, Principal, Rogue River High School, OR

After your anti-bullying presentation, our class discussed times when we might have been bullies and when we’ve been bullied. During this time, one of my students apologized for writing a mean note to someone in the class just last week. She said that your bullying assembly made her realize what a horrible feeling that must have been to have received the note. The two girls went home all smiles today.
Fourth-Grade Teacher, GA

As I left the Protectors assembly, I overheard a student say, “What a waste of time. We don’t have bullying at this school.” I said, “Yes we do, I know several students who have left our school because of it.” That prompted me to change my lesson plan to discuss bullying. To my surprise and delight, one student publicly apologized to another boy for saying unkind things in the past. I affirmed the young man’s courage, and told him I would hold him accountable and so would the rest of the class. The student who had been bullied accepted the apology with grace. It was one of those special moments that I will remember for a long time.
Sixth-Grade Teacher, CA

The Protectors curriculum is changing the lives of our students. After just two weeks parents are already calling the school office to tell us that what we are teaching has had a major impact on their children. Mr.Coughlin gives excellent and tangible examples that our students can use to confront school bullying. He also equips them to become courageous bystanders and to help targets of bullies. This curriculum addresses the issue of confronting school bullying without promoting violence, similar to civil disobedience introduced by Henry David Thoreau and used by leaders like Martin Luther King and Ghandi. This curriculum, while assertive, is a non-aggressive approach that truly is giving our students the ability to stand against injustice at our school. I have already contacted other educators in other states to promote his material, which is easy to follow and implement and the result is life changing.
Darla Harms, Assistant Administrator & Life Skills Instructor, Unity Christian School, Energy, IL

About Founder & President Paul Coughlin

The Protectors began as a faith-based solution to adolescent bullying, but soon received more requests to help public schools than private religious schools. Paul Coughlin has more than 15 years of coaching experience, including his current position as a boy’s varsity soccer coach where he was voted Coach of the Year. He is a father of three, a member of the Board of Trustees for St. Mary’s School, and board member of Start Making a Reader Today (SMART), which recruits thousands of volunteers to read one-on-one with K-3rd grade children. He is a best-selling author of eight books, including the anti-bullying, No More Jellyfish, Chickens or Wimps: Raising Secure, Assertive Kids in a Tough World. He is an international speaker who has appeared on Good Morning America, Nightline, C-SPAN, Newsweek, New York Times, and The LA Times among other media outlets. His anti-bullying curriculum is used throughout North America as well as in South Africa, Uganda, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil among other countries.

Click here for our Values-Based (Public School) Curriculum & Presentation.

Click here for our Faith-Based Curriculum & Presentation.

  • Paul Coughlin! He’s amazing. I’m honored to be speaking with him today. Paul has a prophetic message for men. I’m a big fan. He talks about the martial spirit, about the thumos of men, about moving men from being nice to dangerous and good in the image of Jesus Christ. You have to hear this guy.

    Kenny Luck, Men's Pastor
    Saddleback Church, California
    Founder and President of Every Man's Ministries

    Audio Clip IconAudio Clip from Kenny Luck

Books by Paul

  • No More Christian Nice Girl
  • 5 Secrets Great Dads Know
  • Unleashing Courageous Faith
  • No More Christian Nice Guy
  • No More Jellyfish, Chickens or Wimps
  • Married But Not Engaged


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