Bullying is a community issue and must be addressed by students, parents, schools, and the entire community. Bullying exists in schools, but schools are also in a unique position to educate students and staff about its presence, danger, and negative consequences. Schools can teach behaviors that help protect students from the harmful effects of bullying. Schools have an obligation to adopt policies and procedures to educate school staff about the harmful effects of bullying and the need to create a “bully-free” environment. Policies that focus on creating and maintaining a positive school climate are essential to maintaining a safe and supportive school environment for all students. By providing prevention and intervention services schools can play an important part in reducing bullying within the overall community.
Defined in the Code of Virginia § 22.1-276.01, “Bullying” means 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 cyber bullying. "Bullying" does not include ordinary teasing, horseplay, argument, or peer conflict.
Cyberbullying is defined as “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices” from Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard: Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying.
Understanding Bullying and Cyberbullying - OnlineSchools.org
Effects of Bullying - StopBullying.gov
Parents, school staff, and other caring adults have a role to play in bullying prevention and intervention. It is important that adults understand the difference between bullying and conflict and that there are different types of bullying. Students, families and staff should be encouraged to report bullying incidents and all incidents should be addressed. When vigilant about reporting and addressing incidents of aggression, schools are more likely to see a reduction in incidents of bullying.
There are several things that schools can do to reduce incidents of bullying:
- Adopt a Multi-Tiered System of Supports. The Virginia Tiered Systems of Supports provides a framework that allows for prevention and interventions across all levels. Universal prevention programs and activities support all students, while selective interventions are chosen for those at risk of bullying involvement, and targeted interventions identified for students who are bullied and for those who bully.
- Implement Social Emotional Learning (SEL). Social emotional learning practices help build self and social awareness, foster relationship building, and guide effective problem solving. These practices support clear communication, recognizing and appreciating differences in others, and developing self-management skills.
- Have Clear Behavioral Expectations. Students need to be aware of and understand what the behavioral expectations are in all environments. Prosocial behavior should be praised. Students tend to feel safer and more supported in classrooms that are managed effectively.
- Supervise High Risk Areas. Identify the areas of the school that may be more prone to incidents of bullying and increase supervision in those areas.
- Establish Policies for Reporting and Responding to Incidents of Bullying. Policies should include training for school staff on bullying prevention and intervention. Students, staff, and families need to know how to report incidents of bullying and that all incidents will be addressed.
- Include Families and Community Members in Prevention Efforts. Help families understand effective ways to talk to their kids about bullying and that there are caring adults in the community to help.
- Collect Data on Incidents of Bullying. To identify the needs of the school community, periodically survey students anonymously to report incidents of bullying they have witnessed or experienced. By utilizing an anonymous reporting tool, schools can also collect needed data.
- Integrate Prevention Efforts. Prevention efforts that are long lasting and well integrated address building protective factors in youth, creating effective communication, and establishing social emotional learning practices. These all work to create positive school climates that prevent bullying, suicide, and other student concerns rather than offering a program when a new problem emerges.
State law (Code of Virginia § 22.1-291.4) requires local school boards to implement policies and procedures to educate school board employees about bullying and the need to create a bully-free environment. To help address and prevent bullying in public schools, a model policy was developed and adopted by the Board of Education in 2013. The Model Policy to Address Bullying in Virginia’s Public Schools-This is a PDF document. provides information to assist local school boards in formulating policies to help prevent bullying and procedures to report, investigate and intervene when bullying behavior occurs.
Bullying in Certain Student Populations
In order to address bullying in a school community, it is important to recognize that some student populations may be at higher risk for being victims of bullying.
- Students with Disabilities and Bullying - Pacer Center
- LGBTQ Issues in Elementary Schools - GLSEN
- Military Connected Youth and Bullying - StopBullying.gov
- Responding to Hate and Bias in Schools-This is a PDF document. Teaching Tolerance
- Bullying Basics - Teaching Tolerance
Resources for Schools
Schools play a vital role in addressing bullying behavior both in school and online. The importance of identifying and addressing bullying behavior within the school setting can be a vital part of creating a positive school climate. Below are links to assist schools in establishing an effective policy to deal with bullying:
- Tips for Administrators - A Foundation for Healthier Youth
- Tips for Teachers - A Foundation for Healthier Youth
- School Administrators: Steps to Address Bullying in Your School - GLSEN
- Cyberbullying: Resources for Educators - Cyberbullying Research Center
- Pacer's Classroom All-In - Free, weekly, yearlong classroom resources designed to create environments in which every student is Included, Involved, and Invested in preventing and addressing bullying.
- What is Race and Faith Targeted Bullying? - Beyond Bullying
- Pennsylvania Bullying Prevention Toolkit – Center for Safe Schools
Resources for Families
Families are greatly affected by bullying within the school and community. When a student is involved in a bullying incident, family’s often look for available resources. Below are a number of resources provided for families who have been impacted by bullying:
- Tips and Resources for Parents - Office of the Virginia Attorney General
- Center for Parent Information and Resources
- Bullying: Facts for Families - American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
- Bullies and Victims: A Primer for Parents – National Association of School Psychologists
- Cyberbullying: Resources for Parents -Cyberbullying Research Center
- What Parents Should Know About Bullying - Pacer Center
- Tips for Parents - A Foundation for Healthier Youth
Resources for Youth
Students are key to reporting and addressing bullying behavior within schools and communities. When a student is impacted by bullying behavior, they must have resources on how to deal with the issue. Below are resources which can provide a pathway for students to report and deal with bullying:
- Kids Against Bullying - Pacer Center
- Teens Against Bullying - Pacer Center
- Tips and Resources for Kids - Office of the Virginia Attorney General
- Cyberbullying: Resources for Youth - Cyberbullying Research Center
- Model Guidance for Positive and Preventative Code of Student Conduct Policy and Alternatives to Suspension
- Virginia Tiered Systems of Supports (VTSS)
- Student Assistance Programming: Creating Positive Conditions for Learning
- VDH Youth Violence and Bullying Prevention - Virginia Department of Health
- Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety (VCSCS) – Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services
- Youth Violence Project - University of Virginia, Curry School of Education
- Office for Civil Rights (OCR) - US Department of Education (USED)
- Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) - USED
- Pacer's National Bullying Prevention Center
- A Comprehensive Technical Package for the Prevention of Youth Violence and Associated Risk Behaviors – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Bullying and Cyberbullying - U.S. National Library of Medicine, Spanish Version