Before we start pointing fingers at the school system I think it is important to remember that bullying isn’t a school problem it is a community problem.
We as parents need to know the 3 indicators to bullying before we use the word bullying
1st.. Imbalance of power
2nd intent to harm
3rd threat of further aggression.
remember parents, bullying is a repeated action it is NOT a one shot deal.
here are some steps to take to make sure your child is safe at school.
After getting more details you see that your child is actually being bullied. First thing you want to do is to sit down with your child and start documenting, grab a a note book and write down who, what, where, when, how, and names of bystanders. Write this down on every page. So start with the first page and ask your child the questions.
what you’re doing is demonstrating that your child is being bullied because the imbalance of power and intent to harm is being repeated.
next find the schools policies and procedures so you’re educated on what the school must do when bullying is reported. Once you read these policies then call the teacher or principal to discuss the problem. Being aggressive doesn’t help anyone. I understand you are frustrated and upset but here is where you show the documentation and your knowledge of the schools policies and procedures.
Next send an email to the teacher or principal. ( below is an email to guide you in the right direction)
To: (Name of Principal and/or Teacher)
My son/daughter (first and last name), (indicate their homeroom teacher or their grade level), has informed me that he/she has been a victim of bullying in the school.
I would like to make an appointment to meet with you to discuss this matter. Wednesdays before school would be a good time for me. (Always give them an idea of your schedule and when you are available). You can email me here or call me at (phone number) by (give them a reasonable date, like a week). I will call to follow up at that time if I have not received a reply (this shows urgency and accountability on their part, you’ve given them a timeframe for action to take place).
I look forward to working with you to solve this issue.
(repeat contact phone number and email address)
Prepare for the appointment
Make sure you are clear in your mind about what you want to talk about and what you want the final outcome to be. The most desirable and the most important outcome for any parent would naturally be that the bullying is brought to a stop.
Punishment and apologies would also be desirable, but they are not the topmost priority. It’s always your child who is the first priority and addressing the bullying to be your primary objective of the meeting. Also, keep in mind that if you ask for too many things all at once, your primary objective can get lost in the clutter. You must remember to keep it simple. Have ready all your recorded documentation (as we suggested earlier in this chapter).
The day of the appointment
When the time comes for that actual face to face meeting, you must be prepared to explain that your child has been bullied and what they have been going through. Now is the time to show your written records so you can clearly and accurately state the facts.
- What has been happening to your child (gossip, physical abuse, etc.)
- Name of the child who is doing the bullying
- The place/s where it is happening
- How often the bullying has been happening
- How the bullying is affecting your child (emotional state, avoidance of school, etc.)
During the course of the meeting, you have to take care of the following:
- Make it clear that you want the bullying to stop
- Get some clear commitments on what the policies are and what procedures will be taken – make sure you understand.
- Settle on a timeframe to call back on progress, example – 48 hours.
Record what occurred at the meeting. Focus on what is going to be done and the timeframes given. Follow-up with the principal and/or teacher as you stated you would during the appointment. Remember to indicate both the positive and negative (for example, if your child has told you they are feeling better, no longer feel threatened, want to go to school etc.). We have a tendency to only follow-up when we have something negative to add (another bullying incident, for example) but the positive remarks allow the principal and/or teacher to know that what is being done is working, and more importantly, may work in the future for any other incidents. Remember, they care about your child as well, and will be happy to know they have helped them.
What to do if your approach with the school does not work
Schools are slowly putting more effort into addressing bullying, but some may still be in the early stages. Therefore, in case your meeting with the principal and/or teacher doesn’t bring out the desired results, you will need to go to the person in charge of overall school discipline, the superintendent. Bullying is a serious matter and the superintendent should be informed if necessary.
You should follow similar procedures as those explained earlier in the section pertaining to your interview with the principal and/or teacher.
-Let the superintendent know that you have already met with the principal and/or teacher and been working with them. Make it clear that the principal and/or teacher have been cooperative, but have not been able to stop the bullying and you feel that the issue has escalated to the point that the superintendent should intervene in the matter.
-Explain in detail what you want the outcome of your meeting to be, e.g. you want the bullying to stop.
-If you want counseling for your child, you should let the same be known to the principal and/or counselor.
The above strategies are only suggestions which you may or may not choose to follow. You should always decide exactly what you want from the meeting. Also, you must be aware at all times that the superintendent may not agree with your demands and you should be willing to give him/her time to address the problem using the procedures defined by the school board to address such issues.
Remember- Everyone is here to help and child safety is number one. However, there are specific processes they must go through, and instant results are rare.
When to contact the Police:
If your child is being seriously hurt, you should not ignore it at any cost and definitely consider reporting it to the police. The police are required to investigate when a complaint is given.
Should you contact a counselor?
Almost each and every bullied child we have talked with, who has spoken to a counselor, has said that it did help them.
Talk with your school principal to discuss the option of counseling.
If the counselor decides that some effort is required at a higher level, then they will make the principal aware of the problem and help to find solutions.
If you have booked the appointment with the counselor, you should help your child prepare for the appointment – bringing in copies of all of your documentation about the bullying issues: exactly what is happening; how often is it happening; how many kids are involved (names are important here); how your child feels; etc.
By working on this together, you will be helping your child know he/she is not alone and at the same time you will be increasing your child’s confidence to deal with the problem. As in other things in life, sharing a problem helps. Counselors can also identify any signs of mental/emotional issues, such as depression, and make recommendations to seek further medical attention if necessary.
Not only is the counselor available to victims but they are also available to children who are bullies and bystanders—in other words, to all students. They are in the schools to help, guide and assist in helping find the best possible resolution.
Raising the awareness with the PTA or PTO Association:
It has been our experience that most often it is the other parents who are the best people to discuss school bullying problems with as many of them will have stories to tell about their own children and what strategies they have found helpful while dealing with the problem.
You should think carefully about what you want to talk about and then raise the issue of bullying at a PTA or PTO Meeting. You could use some of the information from this book to tell other parents some facts about bullying and make them more aware of the problem. You could also suggest some strategies that the school can use to reduce bullying.
You must ensure that at such meetings, the most important message that really gets across to all the participants is that we all need to change and work together – it’s our responsibility to our children.
A few reminders:
- Bullying happens in every school
- PTA/PTO meetings are NOT the place to name specific bullies and their specific behavior, as the parents may be present and will most definitely be defensive
- the best defense is education
- we need to focus on the bystanders that are complacent
- the entire school is required – students, all school staff members and parents
- school staff needs to demonstrate that they are reporting, documenting and following up.