Bullying Prevention and Intervention
Students are taught about bullying as part of the health and counseling curriculum using age appropriate language and examples.
FCPS is deeply committed to creating a safe and positive school environment where all students can learn. Through school-wide positive behavior approaches and participation in K-12 health and guidance lessons students are taught to behave respectfully and to resolve conflicts in positive ways. A culture of acceptance and creation of safe opportunities to discuss concerns is actively developed through class meetings, interactions, and relationships with caring adults.
Bullying in Students Rights and Responsibilities is defined as: “Any aggressive and unwanted behavior that is intended to harm, intimidate, or humiliate the victim; involves a real or perceived power imbalance between the aggressor or aggressors and victim; and is repeated over time or causes severe emotional trauma. “Bullying” includes cyberbullying. “Bullying” does not include ordinary teasing, horseplay, argument, or peer conflict.”
When bullying is reported, school administrators are directed to take immediate action to investigate and respond. Parents and/or guardians are contacted and the principal may assign a consequence ranging from a conference to recommendation for expulsion. Incidents involving substantial threats or assault will also be reported to the police. When a student with a disability is involved in a bullying incident, a referral to the individualized education program (IEP) team to consider additional interventions may also be made.
In addition to the disciplinary consequence for the specific behavior, school administrators, counselors, psychologists, or social workers will work with all involved students and intervene with the student who engaged in the bullying behavior, with the target of that behavior, and with the by-standers who witnessed the behavior. The primary goals of these interventions are:
- To ensure that the student who bullied will understand that such behaviors are unacceptable, and understand the potential harm and impact of the behaviors
- The safety of the target will be ensured, and the target will feel safe, supported, and learn some positive approaches to dealing with this type of behavior
- The by-standers will learn that they have a responsibility to report such behavior to adults, and will learn effective strategies for intervening when they see bullying behavior in the future
In some cases, the administrator may invite students and parents and/or guardians to participate in a Restorative Justice conference in an attempt to give the students a deeper understanding of the impact of their behavior, to develop empathy, and to provide an opportunity for the student to take responsibility for the harm caused and work on a way to restore the damaged relationship. Parents and/or guardians and students meet first with a trained facilitator to gain an understanding of the process, and are given an opportunity to decide whether or not to participate. Participation is always voluntary. With support and trained facilitation, the target of the bullying (and the student’s parents and/or guardians) is given an opportunity to explain the impact of the bullying in a safe environment. In this way, the underlying issues can be resolved and are much less likely to resurface again for the students.
Students are taught about bullying as part of the health and counseling curriculum using age appropriate language and examples. The curriculum expands as the students get older and more mature. The lessons help students better recognize bullying, harassment, sexual harassment, or a hostile environment, and to report them if they experience or witness these behaviors.
Under Virginia law, intent to coerce, intimidate, or harass someone using a computer network or to communicate obscene, vulgar, or indecent language or threaten any immoral or illegal act may be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. The Student Rights and Responsibilities booklet states that cyber-bullying that takes place during school hours, on the bus, or using school equipment will be subject to disciplinary action. Cyber-bullying that occurs from home or when the student is not under school supervision is not regulated by the school. Parents and/or guardians reporting this type of out of school behavior will be referred to the police to file charges if desired.
Harassment involves emotional abuse and includes verbal or physical threats, physical assaults, bullying and theft of property. When bullying or harassment is targeted at members of religious groups, is based on shared ethnic characteristics, or includes gender and sexual harassment of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender individuals it is considered a violation of federal anti-discrimination laws enforced by the Office of Civil Rights. Schools where such behavior is reported will take immediate action to investigate, and if discriminatory behavior has occurred will take action to end the harassment, to eliminate any hostile environment and its effects, and to prevent the harassment from recurring. Any suspected discrimination or harassment must be reported to the Office of Equity and Compliance.
FCPS collaborates with the office of Neighborhood and Community Services (NCS) in Fairfax County to ensure that consistent messages about bullying are integrated into activities at after school programs, teen centers, and community centers. NCS has developed a toolkit to address bullying and other issues (drug use, depression, teen dating abuse) which includes resources for parents and/or guardians, and for community groups (scouts, faith youth groups, etc.) to use when working with youth in community activities.