Fairfax County Schools Using Tech Tool to Stop Anti-LGBT Bullying

What should a teacher do when a student uses "You're so gay" as an insult?

The largest school district in the Washington, D.C. area is using a technology tool to help teachers think ahead about how to respond.

Fairfax County Public Schools have given all faculty and staff members access to online simulations designed to help them react to anti-LGBT bullying.

Anti-gay bullying makes it harder for LGBT students to succeed, Ian Brodie, a counselor at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Virginia, said.

“LGBTQ students are twice as likely to be bullied or harassed, and when somebody is bullied or harassed, they’re less likely to do well in school," he said.

Brodie said he encourages students to act with empathy and compassion.

"If you have compassion, you can’t possibly be bullying somebody," he said.

The problem is that not every teacher and staff member knows how to intervene when one student bullies another. That's where the computer simulations come in.

The tool from the company Kognito gives users scenarios and guides them on how to respond.

In one scenario Kognito showed News4, a teenage boy asks a question in class.

A girl sitting behind him laughs at him.

"You're so gay," she says.

A few students laugh and a few stay silent.

The Kognito tool shows the teacher what they could say and what impact that statement could have.

"I hope what the simulation does is show people there are a lot of ways to respond," Kognito strategist Wes Nemenz said.

Nemenz said the goal of the simulation is to create positive learning environments for every student.

“The aim of this program is not to change anyone’s feelings about LGBTQ students. It’s to give them tools so that those students can be safe and attentive in class," he said.

A poster that hangs in a hallway of Lake Braddock Secondary School echoes that sentiment.

"We are committed to reporting bullying when we see it. We have the integrity to stomp out bullying no matter who needs our support.”

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