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.
Video: Bullying & Harassment Prevention & Intervention
Bullying is defined in the Students Rights and Responsibilities 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.”
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.
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.
Other bullying prevention efforts include the following:
- Teaching respectful behavior systematically, starting early, and continuing in a developmentally appropriate and culturally responsive manner.
- Recognizing the connection between bullying and mental health by providing mental health services for students in need and implementing evidence-based interventions to improve school climate
- Teaching the responsible use of technology with a focus on responsible and respectful online communication.
- Teaching bystanders options for helping by raising the awareness of all students and teaching explicit skills (e.g., reporting to an adult, intervening directly if safe to do so, comforting or befriending the target) as part of comprehensive efforts to prevent bullying.
FCPS employees are required to report immediately to the principal or designee any instance of bullying the staff member becomes aware of or witnesses. When a bullying allegation is reported to school administration, the Students Rights and Responsibilities states, "The principal is responsible for investigating and documenting all allegations of bullying. All allegations (whether founded or not) of bullying, including supporting information, shall be recorded in the Bullying and Harassment Management System (BHMS). In connection with any allegation of bullying, and within five school days of the initial report of such to a school official, the principal shall furnish notice regarding the status of the investigation to the parent/guardian of each student allegedly involved."
FCPS expects and encourages students, parents or guardians, and others who witness or become aware of an instance of bullying involving a student to report it to the principal or designee. Reporting may occur by way of scheduling an in-person appointment, phone call, electronic communication such as email, or utilization of the school’s anonymous bullying reporting tool.
Responding to a Report of Bullying
Before fully investigating the allegations of bullying or retaliation, the principal or designee will take steps to assess the need to restore a sense of safety for the alleged target and protect them from possible further incidents. Responses to promote safety will include notifying parents/guardians that a report of bullying has been received and may include, but not be limited to:
- Creating a personal safety or intervention plan
- Pre-determining seating arrangements for the target and/or the perpetrator in the classroom, at lunch, or on the bus
- Identifying a staff member who will act as a “trusted adult” for the target
- Modifying the perpetrator’s schedule and access to the target
This is not an exhaustive list, and actions to create a safe environment will be tailored to the unique circumstances and needs of each individual student and incident.
The principal or designee will promptly investigate all reports of bullying and, in doing so, will consider all available information including the nature of the allegations and the ages of the perpetrator and target involved.
During the investigation, the principal or designee will, among other things, interview students, staff, witnesses, parents or guardians, and others as necessary. The principal or designee will remind the alleged perpetrator, target, and witnesses that retaliation is strictly prohibited and will result in disciplinary action.
Upon concluding the investigation, the principal or designee will determine whether the bullying allegation is founded based upon all the available evidence. If the allegation is founded, the principal or designee will take steps reasonably determined to prevent recurrence.
The principal or designee will promptly notify the parents or guardians of the target and the perpetrator about the results of the investigation and, if bullying is found, communicate what actions are being taken to prevent further acts of bullying.
All investigation findings are documented in the Bullying and Harassment Management System.
The FCPS Bullying and Harassment Management System (BHMS) is an electronic database that school-based administrators are required to use to document school responses to allegations of student-on-student bullying or harassment. The database was designed and implemented during the 2014-15 academic year to accomplish the following:
- Document school responses to allegations of bullying and/or harassment
- Guide the implementation of appropriate prevention and intervention strategies to ensure the safety of students
- Inform the development of universal preventative supports, targeted interventions, and consistent responses across the division.
When entering an allegation, BHMS allows administrators to choose from the following six (6) types of allegations as an additional overall datapoint to cluster the type of allegations received:
- Discriminatory Harassment
- Sexual Harassment
- Sexual Misconduct
If an allegation of sexual harassment has been reported, the school-based administrator is required to contact the Title IX Office for further guidance.
In addition to documenting investigation notes and allegation findings, BHMS enables school-based administrators to document interim supportive measures and interventions. Interim supportive measures are actions taken to protect the target student and the alleged aggressor before, during, and after the investigation to ensure they can access their instruction in a safe environment. Examples of supportive measures include, but are not limited to, changing class schedules, separating the target student and alleged aggressor in public areas, and frequent check-ins with the target student. Interventions are supports or actions implemented to resolve the identified situation and may include the continuation of actions implemented as supportive measures as well as other actions such as those listed below:
- Parent Conference
- Referral to IEP Team
- Referral to 504 Knowledgeable Committee
- Restorative Justice Conference
- Consult with Police
- Referral to Law Enforcement
- Referral to School Counselor, School Psychologist, or School Social Worker
The creation of school environments where every student feels a sense of belonging is integral to student success. To this end, FCPS institute procedures to provide a safe environment at all times of the school day for students who have been targets of substantiated allegations of bullying, as well as perpetrators of said actions as needed to restore a safe and supportive learning environment for all students.
The school administrator, counselor, psychologist, and/or social worker will work with all involved students to accomplish the following:
- Ensure that the student who bullied will understand that such behaviors are unacceptable, and understand the potential harm and impact of the behaviors.
- Ensure safety of the target and provide coaching on reporting and addressing any such behavior in the future.
- Ensure that bystanders understand that they have a responsibility to report bullying to school staff, and 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.
In addition to the previously mentioned interventions, school administration may assign a disciplinary consequence to the perpetrator appropriate to the nature of the conduct, the age of the target and perpetrator, and the need to balance accountability with the teaching of appropriate behavior. 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.