October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month
What is Bullying?
Arlington Public Schools defines bullying/harassment, including bullying/harassment based on an actual or perceived characteristic such as race, national origin, creed, color, religion, ancestry, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or disability, as the repeated infliction or attempted infliction of injury, discomfort, or humiliation on a student by one or more students. It is a pattern of aggressive, intentional or hostile behavior that occurs repeatedly and over time.
Bullying/harassment typically involves an imbalance of power or strength. Bullying/harassment behaviors may include physical, verbal, or nonverbal behaviors. These behaviors include, but are not limited to: intimidation, assault, extortion, oral or written threats, teasing, name-calling, threatening looks, gestures or actions, rumor spreading, false accusations, hazing, social isolation, and abusive e-mails, phone calls, or other forms of cyber bullying. The term “cyberbullying” is used when text, photos, videos or other media are uploaded to computers and/or the Internet to defame, insult, harass or haze others.
How to tell if your child is being bullied?
If your child becomes sad, anxious, withdrawn, or develops behaviors to avoid school or certain situations, they may be experiencing some form of bullying. You may also observe unexplained bruises or injuries, torn clothing or “loss” of money or possessions. Sleep disturbances, appetite loss, or other somatic complaints may be signs of victimization.
What to do if you see these signs?
Talk with your child. Be calm, rational and accepting. Allow them to tell their whole story. Listen carefully and try to gather and organize details. Sometimes it is helpful to ask open-ended or indirect questions to get the conversation started: “Who do you like to eat lunch with? sit on the bus with? walk to school with? ” “Do you know any kids that pick on other kids? What happens?” DO NOT BLAME YOUR CHILD for what has happened.
Problem-solve possible strategies with your child; for example, avoiding the confrontational situation, diffusing strategies, negotiating skills, or assertively telling the “bully” to stop. Always encourage your child to tell the teacher or counselor if they feel unsafe at school.
Share your concerns with your child’s teacher or counselor. Ask about your child’s relationships with other students. Ask the teacher to check in with other staff members (e.g., music, physical education) to see if they have noticed any bullying. Let them know you are there to support your child. Work with school staff to develop a plan to help your child feel safe at school. Follow-up in a few weeks to see how things are going.
Bully Incident Form
This form supports School Board policy 25-1.17 and PIP “Student Safety–Bullying/Harassment Prevention.” It is used by school staff to follow-up on incidents of bullying that are reported by students or parents.
What if your child engages in bullying others?
Teach them to accept responsibility for their behavior. Do not allow them to explain their behaviors away.
Tell them that this type of behavior is unacceptable. Set limits and enforce them with consistent consequences. Teach them alternative behaviors.
Help them to understand the feelings of others. Activities such as community service projects may be helpful.
Ask the school counselor for assistance. Set realistic goals to change behavior over time.
Everyone can help!
Teach your child to speak out against bullying. If your child observes an incident of bullying, they should inform an adult. It is important to be a good observer and report the facts of the situation. This is not “tattling.”
It takes courage to do the right thing. Encourage your child to reach out to a victim of bullying by being kind. Your child can help the victim talk to an adult.
Emphasize safety to your child. If your child feels safe, it is OK to say something like “Stop! That’s not funny!” It is also OK not to confront a bully, but rather to seek assistance from an adult. It is never OK to bully back!
For further information, contact the counselor in your child’s school or Department of Student Services at 703-228-6062 or the Department of Administrative Services at 703-228-6008.