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Virginia Elementary School Invokes Code to Fight Bullying

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“Red, Green, Black, and Blue. 

My Tribe is my Crew. 

We are O-C-C-O-Q-U-A-N! 

My school is the perfect 10…at The ‘O’!” 

These are words from one of the cheers we recite when we welcome new students to our school. At Occoquan Elementary School in Woodbridge, Virginia, we have a House System that fosters our sense of community. This is a common practice where the school is divided into subunits called “houses” and each student is allocated to one house at the moment of enrollment.  We compete to see who has the most spirit, but we also strive to uphold a code of behavior we call The 30 Essentials

Essential number one is We are a family. All students and staff know this one by heart. We remind students about this Essential whenever they mistreat one another. This includes bullying behavior.  

Students sometimes confuse being mean with bullying. That’s why we teach our students the difference between the two. Have they mastered understanding the difference? Not yet. However, we continue to help them understand what bullying is and what it isn’t. 

Once students know and understand the difference, they can recognize if someone is being mean or bullying them. If a student is being bullied, it’s our expectation that students will fulfill Essential 30, which is to tell a teacher. Do we experience setbacks in our efforts to effectively address bullying? Yes, we do. Do we continue to work towards “being a perfect 10?” EVERY SINGLE DAY!!! These words from the School Pledge reflect Occoquan Elementary School’s commitment to be an inclusive place to learn and grow.   

“We are a team. 

We value self-esteem. 

We treat everyone with respect. 

Love and friendship, we reflect.” 

Students recite it every day during morning announcements. Our school counseling program incorporates the school pledge and the 30 Essentials into our lessons. We often refer to these foundational elements when we address social skills.  

Our efforts to reduce bullying also include teaching empathy and participating in the No Place for Hate program. Our empathy lesson teaches students to think about how the other person feels. The No Place for Hate program (https://www.noplaceforhate.org/) promotes inclusiveness and the active effort to positively affect school climate. 

Our goal at Occoquan is to help students feel connected. We’ll achieve this by continuing to tackle bullying and the negative impact it has on the school community. At the end of the day, we may be a school with 4 TRIBES, but we will always be 1 VILLAGE

Occoquan Elementary School is named after the town of Occoquan, which is located on the banks of the Occoquan River.  The word Occoquan is from an Algonquian Doeg word meaning “at the end of the water”.  The area that is Occoquan today was long occupied by the Indigenous People.  Even though the Doeg Tribe split up into several sections across Virginia, they were still one Village of people.  So, we here at Occoquan Elementary School try to embrace this legacy with all of our students in helping them understand that even though we may live in or come from different parts of the world, we are still able to be united as one. 

Hence, the 4 Tribes, 1 Village mentality we embrace at the school. 

By Madeline Johnson and Buddy Lint.  Ms. Johnson and Mr. Lint have worked together at Occoquan since 2017. Mr. Lint has served as principal since 2017. Ms. Johnson has been a school counselor at Occoquan since 2016. 

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