Albemarle County Public Schools Successfully Identifies Both Bullies and Victims
“We all missed it.
nobody had any
idea [that bullying incidents
were being overlooked].”
Albemarle County Public Schools
To ensure that both bullying victims and bullies are identified and receive services, Albemarle County Public Schools (ACPS) administers a confidential survey to more than 10,000 students in grades 3–12 every October. The Peer Support Survey asks students to provide the names of students whom they believe may be targets of bullying. Students may also submit the names of those whom they believe may be bullying others.
Students who receive at least three mentions are interviewed by a school counselor, who has received special training for these discussions, to assess whether an intervention is necessary. If the answer is yes, the parents of the bully and the victim are then notified. Counselors also notify classroom teachers and/or other school staff as appropriate and may refer students to additional mental health services. Follow-up is conducted at one and three months after the initial meeting.
Because students understand that what they have written in the survey is taken seriously, false or “joke” nominations have decreased substantially since the program began.
As one ACPS counselor noted, the survey has been invaluable in identifying bullying incidents that otherwise would be overlooked: “We all missed it. Nobody had any idea. It’s good that we had the Peer Support Survey.”
In addition to mental health counseling interventions, the Albemarle SS/HS Initiative has implemented a variety of education programs and activities aimed at reducing bullying, including the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program Bullying Prevention Month activities, school-wide meetings to talk about bullying, school anti-bullying pledges, and school-wide cybebullying prevention activities.
ACPS’s comprehensive approach to bullying prevention has garnered positive results. In addition to ensuring that victims of bullying receive support early on, ACPS saw an overall decline in bullying: During the first three years of the program, the district experienced a 26% decrease in the number of students in grades 6–12 reporting that they were bullied in the last 30 days.