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Montgomery County Public Schools is strongly committed to providing an equitable, positive, and respectful school culture where all students can safely learn in an environment that encourages academic and social success. Any behavior that creates a hostile school environment, disrupts learning and school activities, or negatively interferes with a student's academic, psychological, social or physical well-being will not be tolerated.
Montgomery County Board Policy JHF and MCPS Regulation JHF-RA provide procedures that address the prohibition of bullying in schools by implementing prevention, early intervention, remedial activities, and specific consequences as needed, and guard against reprisal or retaliation against individuals who report acts of bullying.
Every school has a team of professionals that are available to students and parents. To find the resources available at your school, go to Be Well 365 and enter your school name in the Find Resources For Your School search box. For questions related to bullying prevention, please contact the Office of Student and Family Support and Engagement at 240-740-5630.
Bullying, Harassment, or Intimidation is defined as any unwanted, intentional, repeated behavior by one or more individuals made with the intent to harm, intimidate, or humiliate a targeted person or group. It is characterized by a real or perceived imbalance of power or strength that is meant to control or harm the target and can be motivated by the target's actual or perceived personal characteristics or group affiliation. The behavior creates conditions that negatively affects the school environment, disrupts student learning, and fosters a climate of fear that can seriously impair the physical and psychological health of students.
Bullying, harassment or intimidation can appear in many forms and can include one or more of the following:
An important distinction to make between bullying and normal conflict is the intent behind the action. In one way or another, conflict is a part of everyday experience. It's a disagreement or argument in which both sides express their views. People may get frustrated and angry with each other, but typically it doesn't make them feel unsafe or threatened. Bullying, on the other hand, is one-sided behavior meant to intentionally hurt, harm or humiliate someone. It's often about having power and control over someone, not a conflict or disagreement, and it creates fear and and a sense of hopelessness in those who are bullied. Conflict may occur naturally, but bullying behavior does not.
Telling is not tattling – it's helping to keep someone safe. It's the right thing to do and adults need to know when bad things happen so they can help you. It's a big deal and no one should go through it alone. You have the right to be treated with respect and the right to be protected against those who bully.
Physical or emotional aggression toward others is not just "kids being kids" and should not be tolerated or minimized. Bullying in any form is a threat to student safety and well-being, and its effects can have long-lasting consequences not only on the students who are bullied, but also on the students who bully and on the bystanders.
Students who bully can be popular and well-connected or be socially isolated. They may have high levels of self-esteem or be insecure. Bullying is motivated by a desire for social power and control. It's an effort to gain attention from peers, and therefore students who bully may have a group of friends who support and encourage their behavior.
Ignoring bullying sends a message that it's ok and the person being bullied is unable to do anything about it. Purposefully being silent provides the sense of power and control the person doing the bullying seeks. Don't be silent – tell a trusted adult. Trusted adults have a responsibility to keep you safe.
Bullying doesn't build character or help students learn how to stand up for themselves. There is no learning when someone is physically or emotionally victimized. Bullying is abusive and humiliating and adults play a critical role in helping to stop it.
Not all bullying looks the same. Physical and verbal bullying can be easiest type of bullying to identify, however indirect forms of bullying, such as spreading rumors or isolating a student from friends, may not be as obvious. These kind of bullying behaviors can be subtle and difficult to notice. Cyberbullying can be especially hard to identify and has the potential to cause the greatest harm because it can occur 24 hours a day and in your child's bedroom. Even when online activity is monitored, adults may miss subtle signs or not see deleted posts or comments. Bullying also tends to happen in locations that are isolated or when adults aren’t around to witness it.
Adults may be unaware of bullying because many students don’t tell them. There are a number of reasons why bullying is not reported, including fear of retaliation, fear that adults won't understand, shame and embarrassment, self-blame, pressure to remain quiet, and a desire not to be labeled as a "snitch." Students may perceive that reporting bullying places them in the position of having to highlight differences or putting themselves at increased physical or psychological risk. It is the adults’ responsibility to help students feel safe and supported and to make sure that bullying behavior does not occur.
Students are bullied for many reasons. Even those who are popular, smart or attractive can experience bullying. However, one key factor is a perceived vulnerability — some indication that the bullying behavior can continue without retaliation. While bullying can happen to any student for any reason, the behavior is often fueled by prejudicial assumptions. Students who are perceived to be different (e.g., physically, students who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning or intersex, and students with disabilities and abilities) may be at increased risk of being bullied.
You are not to blame when others mistreat you. Don't let the person bullying you convince you that what they are saying is true. Don't let them convince you that telling someone about it will make things worse or that they will bully you more, and don't let them convince you there is nothing you can do about it. There are people you can turn to for help that not only care, but will have ideas about how to best deal with the situation. Bullying is hurtful and it’s natural to feel emotions such as sadness, fear, loneliness, anger, embarrassment, or helplessness as a result of it. Try to focus on everything that is great about you because others notice those great things too.
Pause and think before you act. The person bullying you wants you to angry. Try your best to stay calm and respond firmly with 'STOP' or say 'WHATEVER' either in a serious or humorous manner, and walk away. Resist the urge to show your feelings or fight back. It takes a lot of courage and confidence to stand up to the person bullying you, yet it can be very effective if it feels safe to do. As you walk away, keep your mind occupied (try counting backwards from 100 or take deep breaths to help calm you) until you are out of the situation and somewhere safe.
Don't keep bullying a secret and don't lose hope. It's ok to ask for help and report it. It's not snitching - it's self-protection. Tell your teacher, counselor, principal, coach, a member of your family, or any adult you trust. Ask them to listen and tell them it’s important. Be specific about the bullying behavior, where you are when it occurs, and what you need to feel safe. There is always help for those who ask. When friends and family know about the bullying, they are in a position to support you, keep you safe, and hold those who are bullying accountable. Report each and every incident until it stops. There is no reason for you to ever put up with bullying.
Protect your privacy. Don't give people you don't know your phone number, IM name, email or pictures of yourself. Don't respond to someone bullying online. Print or take a screenshot of messages, emails, comments or images that have been posted online to share with a trusted adult as evidence. Delete your account or block the person from contacting you.
Think about what you post. You never know what someone will forward. Talk to an adult you trust about any messages you get or things you see online that make you sad, upset or scared.
Keep yourself surrounded by people who make you feel good about yourself and share your interests.
Try to avoid being alone in places in which the bullying is likely to happen. Make a plan to walk with a friend on the way to school, recess, lunch, or wherever you think you might meet the person doing the bullying.
Everyone needs to have a voice about how to stop and prevent bullying in our schools. Find out more about where and when bullying happens. Think about what could help and share your ideas. No one knows about the bullying that goes on in school better than you. Your ideas about what to do are important.
Speak up! Be an upstander — someone who speaks in support of the person being bullied — not a bystander. It takes courage, but talking to someone who’s bullying lets them know that their behavior is wrong. Interrupt and question the bullying behavior. Simple things like changing the subject or questioning the behavior can shift the focus. If you’re worried about safety, make sure you tell someone your plan or bring someone with you. Speaking up can make a big difference.
Help the person being bullied get away. If it’s safe, help the person being bullied walk away from the situation. You can help by creating a distraction or offering a way for the person to leave with you. Sometimes just standing next to the person being bullied is enough to diffuse the situation.
Get help. Find an adult to stop the bullying on the spot.
The best way to support a friend experiencing bullying is to tell a trusted adult about what happened. Try to involve the person being bullied in the discussion. They might be afraid to tell someone and your encouragement could help. Telling is not tattling when it's done to help someone. Adults can help stop bullying, but only if you tell them.
Be a friend, even if this person is not yet your friend. Show kindness and empathy and tell them they don't deserve to be treated badly. Ask if they are ok and if there’s anything you can do to help and support them. Let them know you don't agree with it and that you care. Being bullied hurts and friends can make a huge difference.
Refuse to spread lies and rumors. If you hear a rumor that you know is untrue or sends you a message that is hurtful to someone else, stand up and let the person know it's wrong.
Don't give bullying an audience. Don’t passively watch, encourage, or laugh at the jokes and comments being made by the person doing the bullying. Some students continue to bully because they get attention from others. Don't be one of those students. Set a good example for your friends and make it clear to everyone around that the behavior is wrong and then go get help.
Talk with your children about bullying. Children who understand what bullying is are able to recognize it and respond appropriately when they see it or become involved in it.
Stop and listen and take all complaints of any type of bullying seriously. Get the details about what's happening. Provide affirmation and support before taking action. Don't think they can work it out without adult help. Guide them to a solution that makes them feel empowered and involve them in the process of determining next steps. Help them evaluate danger, risk and protective factors. Contact the school and follow up.
Encourage your children to to come to you or another trusted adult if they see someone being hurt in any way. Reassure them that is is not tattling. Remind them they have the power to help.
Stress the importance of treating all people with kindness, compassion and respect. Be a good example.
Educate your children on how to be smart online. Closely monitor their computer usage. Remind them that online actions have offline consequences.
Remind your children to never encourage or contribute to the bullying behavior. Even small acts of teasing should be stopped on the spot.
Children may not always be vocal about being bullied. Recognize the possible signs, such as declining grades, health complaints, hesitation about going to school, changes in sleep and eating patterns, feelings of sadness or anxiety, behavioral problems, and loss of interest in activities.
Help your children develop assertive strategies for coping with bullying and practice responses with them through role-playing. Identify teachers and friends that can help them if they’re worried about being bullied.
Contact your child's school administrator or counselor if you have any bullying concerns or information that you would like to share or complete the Bullying, Harassment or Intimidation Reporting Form.
Get involved with the school by raising awareness through PTA and community events, attending workshops or trainings in your community, or sharing information with others.
Establish a safe and supportive environment based on respect and inclusion that supports all students. Students need to see teachers and staff proactively and consistently engaged in bullying prevention in the classroom and throughout the school.
Follow MCPS policies and procedures for preventing, identifying, and intervening issues of bullying.
Bullying behavior is never tolerated and every adult in the school is responsible for bullying prevention. Know how to respond and report bullying when suspected. Be alert and observant. Monitor students to make sure they interact safely and respectfully. Be present in hallways, restrooms, playgrounds and stairwells. The frequent presence of teachers in all areas of the school helps give students a feeling of safety. Look for warning signs that indicate bullying is occurring. When adults respond in an immediate and consistent manner to incidents of bullying, they send the message that this type of behavior is not tolerated.
All reports of bullying must be investigated and every concern a parent has related to any bullying behavior should be examined so that immediate and appropriate school action can be taken.
Make sure students know how to respond to and report bullying. Let students know that they can make a difference.
Provide families with opportunities to participate in prevention efforts with their children in meaningful and relevant ways that address the academic, social, and well-being of children.
If you witness or suspect an incident of bullying:
Intervene immediately to stop it and make sure students are safe.
Let the students involved know that bullying is unacceptable and that students who bully others can face a variety of progressive consequences. Calmly refuse to allow students to trivialize the incident (e.g. “it was just a joke”) or justify the behavior.
Don't try to mediate. It gives the bullied student and the student doing the bullying an equal voice. Confronting students who bully in front of other students may actually enhance their status and lead to further aggression. Handle the incident individually and privately.
Help the bullied student regain self-control and respect. Talk with the student in private to ask what happened or refer them to another supportive adult if they are upset. Never discuss what happened in front of the person doing the bullying. Reassure the student that steps will be taken to ensure their protection. Inform the student's counselor and teachers about happened so that they can provide additional support and protection.
Don't publicly put bystanders on the spot to describe what happened. Let them know what you observed and give guidance about how they might appropriately help in the future or acknowledge their efforts to end it. Offer support to bystanders who witness bullying. Students who are bullied or have witnessed bullying may feel powerless, scared, and helpless. It's important to provide them with a voice and ask them what they need to feel safe.
Provide reassurance that talking with you is the right thing to do and that they are not to blame for the bullying behavior.
Protect students being bullied by providing a safe and secure environment for them to discuss their feelings. The student’s perception of the incident is important even if an adult interprets it differently. Question all students involved separately so that they can talk without being concerned about retaliation or about what other students think or say. Monitor students who have been bullied for signs of trauma. Increase supervision to help ensure it is not repeated and does not escalate.
Share information about the incident to the school's counselor, psychologist, or other support professional who can offer a variety of supports, such as counseling, check-ins, social skills groups, or other programs or services.
Take appropriate corrective action and complete the MCPS Form 230-35, Bullying, Harassment, or Intimidation Reporting Form.
If an incident of bullying is reported to you:
Take all reports seriously, whether it's the bullied student or a witness to the incident. Take the time to listen and ask the right questions. Make sure you get all the facts relative to what took place. An individual incident can seem insignificant until it's put into context. You may uncover a pattern of bullying behavior.
Affirm the student's courage in speaking up and reinforce the importance of telling an adult. Many students fail to report bullying out of fear of being labeled a "snitch" by their peers and a fear of retaliation.
Reassure the student that steps will be taken to ensure their protection. Emphasize the confidential nature of the discussion and make it clear about who will and will not be given the information.
Monitor students who have been bullied for signs of trauma. Increase supervision to help ensure it is not repeated and does not escalate. Share information about the incident to the school's counselor, psychologist, or other support professional.
Stomp Out Bullying
Pacer's National Bullying Prevention Center
Cyberbullying Research Center
Common Sense Media