Finding out that your child may be a victim of bullying at school is heart-wrenching and may leave you confused about what the next step should be.
You are not alone in this battle. Most states have anti-bullying laws that specify how schools must proceed if an incident of bullying is brought to their attention. Because of these requirements, you will be partnering with your child’s school to combat this behavior together. Below are five pointers to follow when working with your child’s school to stop bullying.
1. Educate Yourself.
Most states have their own legal definition of bullying and create steps that schools must follow when bullying occurs. Be sure you know what your state’s anti-bullying laws are, so you can make sure the situation is being handled properly. Use this state-by-state guide to learn about the bullying laws in your state.
2. Try to Let Go of Semantics.
You may find yourself in a situation where your child describes something that looks and smells like bullying but is not considered “bullying” in your state’s statute. This does not mean that these experiences are okay, but it’s possible that the school will work to stop the behavior while calling it another name, or may use different intervention techniques than those mandated by a formal bullying designation. For example, if the situation is seen as a conflict, schools may use conflict resolution techniques. By contrast, if it is considered bullying, there ought to be a clear victim who needs protection rather than mediation.
3. Gather Evidence.
Many cases of potential bullying become a “he said, she said,” battle. Schools are often unable to determine who is telling the truth based on verbal recollections of events. The best thing you and your child can do is gather evidence. The more evidence you have, the less likely your case is to be shelved as inconclusive. There are a number of ways to gather evidence, including:
If your child is being cyberbullied, take screenshots of everything. This is irrefutable evidence and will be invaluable for an investigation.
Tell your child to notice who is around her when the behavior is happening. The more witnesses, especially adult witnesses, who see the act, the more solid your child’s case will be.
There are instances of bullies writing notes or drawing pictures that are intended to hurt a victim. If your child is bullied in this way, ask her to keep the paper evidence so that you can present it to the school when you address the bullying.
4. Remember the School’s Responsibility.
The school is responsible for keeping all students safe, so they are able to get an education. This means that there will be some information that the school may not be able to share with you.
For example, the school may not be able to share the specific disciplinary consequences another student received if that information is considered confidential. Although the lack of information is understandably frustrating and can raise doubts, this is where trust has to play a part. It is in the school’s best interest to protect your child in any way it can. If you truly think the school is withholding information that you have a right to, be sure to double-check your state’s anti-bullying law, which typically specifies the information you have a right to know.
In addition, there are situations that the school may not be able to get involved with. Be open to suggestions of how to proceed if, legally, the school’s proverbial hands are tied.
For ideas, refer to this Noodle article, Beyond Talking to The Administration: How Parents Can Help Their Bullied Children.
5. Keep Your Eye on the Prize.
It is devastating to hear that your child may be the victim of bullying at school. It is understandable that you would want justice. Try to remember, though, that the true goal is to put a stop to the behavior. Keep the lines of communication open between you, your child, and her school. If the bullying behavior continues, don't assume that the school doesn’t care about your child — rather, it may just not realize. Let the school know immediately that the behavior is continuing and allow adminisrators to “up the ante” in order to get the behavior to stop.
By following these tips, you and your child can work with the school to combat bullying behavior and ensure she is safe and able to receive her education.
You can find further guidance about school bullying on Noodle, where you can ask questions directly of experts in the field.