Column: Helping Create Safe School Environment

Column: Helping Create Safe School Environment

Back to school month is a great time to talk with children about important issues that develop during a typical school year. Of the many issues that students will face, bullying is a topic that warrants a serious discussion. While bullying may be viewed as merely a childhood issue, it can have lasting effects on children long after the bullying subsides. Child victims of chronic bullying are at increased risk for both poor physical and mental health, as well as poor academic success, which may continue as they grow and develop into young adults.

Bullying can take many forms, but Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) defines bullying as any unwanted or aggressive behavior that is intended to harm, intimidate, or humiliate another student. This includes actions such as threats, rumors, physical or verbal abuse, and purposeful exclusion.

Recent studies have found bullying to be an increasingly larger issue faced by more students than ever before. A recent survey of our own FCPS students found that over 50 percent of students in grades 8-12 reported being bullied by someone at some point during the school year, and nearly 45 percent of students reported being the aggressor in a bullying situation.

Bullying doesn’t simply involve a bully and victim. Kids may play multiple roles in bullying such as assisting in bullying by encouraging the behavior or reinforcing the bullying by acting as an audience. Some children may act as onlookers by neither reinforcing the bullying behavior nor defending it, while others may come to another child’s defense when bullying occurs. Any one of these roles can negatively affect a child.

Many children simply don’t know how to handle a bullying situation, and FCPS is committed to fostering a safe school environment to prevent and address bullying for all students. To accomplish this, FCPS has developed a county-wide positive behavior approach to teach children how to respect one another and to resolve conflicts in positive ways. The goal is to enhance the FCPS capacity to educate children by developing research-based, school-wide, and classroom discipline systems. This will also include the development of school-wide procedures for all students and staff, and will cover all settings both inside and outside of the classroom.

Students are also taught about bullying through the health and counseling curriculum. The curriculum focuses on teaching students how to recognize bullying and harassment, as well as teaching students how to report these behaviors. The lessons are tailored to the age of the students, and the curriculum expands as children grow and mature.

When it comes to bullying, creating a safe school and neighborhood community is the first priority. It begins by talking with our children, and helping them to understand appropriate behavior. It also includes teaching them what to do when they are a victim of or witness to bullying. Practicing what to do in different scenarios helps students become more confident in these intimidating situations. To learn about other resources, please visit