Students Advised to Speak Up Against Bullying

Students often think that bullying is just something they have to deal with.  While it is a serious problem, FCPS believes strongly in the students’ right to feel safe in school.

Longfellow’s counselors have been trained to deal with bullying situations, and they take cases of bullying very seriously.

“I believe that bullying is a very important topic to talk about, especially in schools,” said Longfellow counselor Lorraine Marshall. “Many students suffer the negative effects of bullying. It is serious because it has serious consequences.”

According to the website, The federal government created a legal definition of bullying in 2014.  It includes three core elements: unwanted aggressive behavior, observed or perceived power imbalance, and repetition or high likelihood of repetition of bullying behavior.

“There is not a single profile of a young person involved in bullying,” explains. “Youth who bully can be either well connected socially or marginalized, and may be bullied by others as well. Similarly, those who are bullied sometimes bully others.”

According to an article entitled “8 reasons why teens bully others,” on the website, It is common for bullies to pick on people they perceive as different from themselves, like being from another race, nationality, gender, or sexual orientation.  Other reasons include boredom and peer pressure.

Being the focus of negative and critical comments can be upsetting. The victim can feel anger, hurt, and confusion, which can cause the person being criticized to question their self-worth and behavior.

Whatever the reason, bullying happens all around the world and causes real physical and mental harm. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a government-run organization, bullying can result in a change of mood, physical injuries, self-harm, and even death. Bullying can also increase the risk of depression, lower academic achievements, increase anxiety, cause sleep difficulties, and result in dropping out of school.

“Bullying affects kids’ and adults’ mental health when they believe that the mean words are true, or they believe that they deserve to be treated this way. EVERYONE deserves to be treated with respect, equity, and kindness,” said Ms. Marshall.

When being bullied, people’s behavior often changes because they feel unwelcome, alone, or hopeless. A sign that someone is being bullied is when they become more quiet and unhappy.  While being bullied, the victim can have lots of negative thoughts, like thinking they’re not good enough or thinking nobody cares for them.

If you are being bullied or know someone who is being bullied, there are many ways to help yourself or a friend. First and foremost is to speak up.

“We teach others how to treat us,” advised Ms. Marshall. “If we allow someone to be mean to us, they will keep doing it.”

If you can, call out the bullying when it happens and ask the bully to stop.  Make it clear that the attention is unwelcome.  However, that doesn’t always feel possible in the moment, especially if you are being threatened physically. But there are still ways to speak out. According to, it is important to talk to a trusted adult, or just an adult in general, about the problem. Options would include telling a teacher, school counselor, staff member, parent, or even a friend.

Witnesses should also speak out, either in defense of the person being bullied or at least by contacting someone who can address the issue. Friends can also combat bullying by comforting the victim and noting positive things about them.  This can counteract feelings that nobody cares.

With technology, it is especially difficult for kids to get away from bullying when it is happening online. When you see bullying, you need to say something to support the victim. When you don’t, the victim feels alone and powerless to defend themselves.  If nobody speaks up or challenges the behavior, it can make the bully feel stronger, and the problem can get worse.

If the problem is severe, or there has been a crime, or someone is at risk of harm, it is really important for an adult to know, and if necessary, it is OK to call 911.

As Ms. Marshall suggested, it is important to treat others with respect, kindness, and equity in order to have healthy relationships.

“Often, when I work with students who bully other students, I learn that they are very insecure people,” said Marshall. “They think treating others badly will make them feel better.”

She stressed that bullying is not teasing or kids trying to be funny. Bullying is on purpose.

“I believe that bullying is very hurtful to the individual and to those who observe it,” said Marshall. “It is not OK to walk away or look the other way. People need to be held responsible, so they do not keep doing it.”

She knows that many students, especially in middle school, are hesitant to report bullying because they don’t want to get a friend in trouble, or they don’t want their friend to be mad at them. But it is the best way to do something about the problem, and it can result in real change.

“Students have been asked to leave their base school because they were doing or saying things that made other students feel uncomfortable being in class with them,” said Marshall. “Fairfax County policy is very clear about how bullying and harassment cases should be handled. The victim has a right to feel safe at school.”