What a horrible experience to be tormented, ridiculed and injured by the school bully. When school district officials do not offer appropriate solutions it becomes an upsetting and hopeless experience for both the child and parents. Anti-bullying laws require school boards to establish policies that include identifying prohibited activity, consequences, reporting procedures, and identification of staff responsible to receive reports of bullying. These policies are required to be available on the District’s Internet site. The following tips provide guidance to parents who have a child that is being or has been bullied.
- If you suspect your child is being bullied, begin by keeping a daily journal of the events. Keep track of the date(s), what occurred, the impact of the incident, the time of day, who was involved, the location, who witnessed the incident and whether it was reported to or known by district personnel.
- Work with school personnel to develop a plan to stop the bullying and to assure your child that the school is a safe place. Plans may include strategies such as training for students and staff, intervention by the school counselor or social worker, and/or utilization of staff to shadow either the bully or victim. The plan should also be an overall plan for the entire school. The best way to stop bullying is stop it before it starts.
- Resist the school’s attempts to engage in conflict resolution or mediation. Bullying is a form of victimization and not a conflict. It would be absurd to bring together the spousal abuser and abused spouse or victim of a violent crime and their attacker and request that they work out their problem. Bringing together the bully and the victim (or their respective parents) sends the wrong message and is not an effective strategy.
- Insist that the school address the bully and the victim (and their respective families) individually. The message to the victim should be to provide assurance that the school is a safe place and that being a victim is not his/her fault. The message to the bully is that bullying is serious, it will not be tolerated and that he/she must make amends or repair the situation.
- Insist that the school follow up with both the bully and victim even if the bullying incident is resolved. This is an opportunity to provide reassurance and positive reinforcement.
- If you see a pattern (e.g. three incidents) you should report, in writing (letter not e-mail) the incidents to the individual identified in the school policy for handling complaints and the superintendent.
- Your complaint should note that your child has been bullied and subjected to discrimination. Provide the information from your journal noting that the conduct was not a single act. Request that an appropriate investigation is conducted and that you have a meeting with the school’s principal and/or superintendent.
- Note in the complaint what impact or damage your child has suffered and how your child has been excluded from participation in school and/or denied the same benefits that other children enjoy.
- Your complaint should be specific about what action or result you want from school officials. Your request should be more focused on your child and not on consequences for the bully.
- Consider contacting the police. Under certain circumstances the school has a duty to report acts of aggression or violence to the police. If school officials refrain from complying with this obligation, then you are well within your right to prompt compliance.
If school officials are not responding or their response is not satisfactory, consider contacting an experienced education attorney.