Many parents are surprised that schools are not particularly helpful in bullying situations. Often the school’s main objective is to resolve the situation and keep the peace. Schools have a process they will follow which involves finding proof that a bullying incident has taken place (or caught in the act), before corrective action. The school will talk to both parties involved and try to find out what exactly went on. It is important to report incidents of bullying as soon as they happen, as it difficult for the school to take action at a later date, or in complex bullying to join the dots of behavior.
Blaming the Victim
In a bullying situation it is vital that parents step up and advocate for their child. The schools (teachers, counselors) often blame the victim, interrogating your child asking if they did anything to provoke this, are they absolutely sure, are they misinterpreting play? Making a convincing argument of bad intent can be difficult, and require some mental strength from your bullied kid to not take the “questioning” as doubting their story or memory.
We have heard of school counselors almost suggesting the kid may have imagined it or misinterpreted it to get the kid to quickly accept an apology to resolve the situation quickly. It can be challenging to prove a bully did something as the other kids don’t talk out of fear of being the bully’s next victim. So try to make it easier for your kid and their friends to share openly, by showing open public support and appealing to sense of justice.
Document everything that happened
Most bullying takes place away from teachers and they need as much help as possible to catch incidents that take place behind the scenes. Document everything that has happened as clearly as possible, the date, time, location where why what and when and present this information to the school. They school will check with witnesses to verify that the bullying actually did occur, which is why you need to provide as many details as possible. This can be can be challenging as younger children often don’t fully comprehend what has happened, or they may not have witnessed the entire situation only a portion of the incident. If you have captured the bullying on video, you could send the link to the school on a private YouTube link, or just show the principle only.
Here are a few things to consider when writing your letter to notify the school of what has gone on.
- Who was there? Make a special note of the bully, any other participants, and any witnesses that were around.
- What did they say to you?
- Did they physically hurt you?
- How did it make you feel?
- Where and when did it take place?
- What did you do / how did you respond?
School Code of Conduct
If your child’s school has a code of conduct review the document for what is acceptable behavior. When you write your complaint letter to the school, you can state that the bullying is clearly in violation of the school’s rules, forcing the school to take action. The code of conduct should clearly list out what will happen as a result of each school violation. The school has a responsibility to provide a safe environment for their students, but may often only give lip service and underplay significance and remedies of a bullying incidence. If they realize how serious the parents are about pursuing it, they often will respond more completely.
Try to Keep Calm
Even though it is highly emotional time for parents, it is important to remain in control emotionally when dealing with the school. One mother became overly angry with a bullying situation in her son’s elementary school. She yelled at the student who was bullying her son, and was then issued a restraining order by the school, and she was not allowed to set foot on the school grounds for a long period of time. You can consider bringing an advocate if you think you will be emotional.
One parent from Texas shared how she couldn’t believe the level of hatred she felt for her child’s bully, which is a natural response. As a parent you want to protect your child, and in a bullying situation you may feel you have very little control and can’t help. By age ten or earlier, kids should know the difference between right and wrong, and they are fully aware of what they are doing. As a parent you may feel like you are dealing with the result of someone’s morally bankrupt kid. Dealing with a bully takes a tremendous toll on the entire family and it is normal to have feelings of disgust and resentment. We suggest that be channeled into some of the proactive actions above and active monitoring of the situation, and getting feedback from other parents.