What can parents do about school bullying?
First, parents need to listen and validate their child’s feelings and fears then gather the facts. Children need you to say, “Bullying is not your fault” and “We will protect you and help you.” Kids need to know they are not in trouble for telling about bullying incidents.
Check your own emotions and stay calm as your child tells the story. Finding out who, what, when, and where. What happened before, during, and after the bullying incident? Ask for names of witnesses. How long as the bullying been happening? Did your child tell peers, teachers, a teacher’s aid, the school nurse or school counselor or another school staff? What were their responses?
What is bullying? “Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time,” as stated on www.stopbullying.gov.
Ask for Adolescent Input on Solutions
Parents need to converse with their child on what would help and what would hinder in regard to the school bullying incident. Include your child in the school meetings if age appropriate.
The Revealers, a fictional book for adolescents by Wilhelm and Fish, is about three bullied seventh graders who join together to stop bullying at their school. Ask the school librarian to purchase it and put it on the bookshelf.
In the Journal of School Violence, Peter Lovegrove and colleagues wrote an article entitled “My Voice is not going to be Silent”: What can Parents do about Children’s Bullying? Visit www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/15388220.2013.792270.
Parents are directed not to confront the identified bully or his/her parents. Instead, parents are encouraged to let the school administration address the bullying incident according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Work With the School to Stop Bullying
The research documents the significant role that parent–child relationships and parent–teacher connections have as protective factors for bullied kids. It matters what parents do about it. It matters what teachers do about it. Communicating with other parents in your child’s class about school bullying prevention and intervention policies may be helpful as well. Communicating with the school counselor and the school principal may be necessary if the bullying continues despite talks with teachers. Next, parents may consider contacting the school’s superintendent and then the school board if the bullying problem is not resolved.
Lovegrove encourages parents to keep records of all bullying incidents reported by their children and to work in partnership with schools. A sample letter, available at www.thebullyproject.com/tools_parents, provides a template for parents to document their child’s bullying experience and request a meeting with the school administration to discuss interventions. Parents can request a copy of the school’s bullying polices.
Find out what steps your school district must take when bullying is identified and ask for copies of all reports. Peruse the Ohio Department of Education website for information about state laws on bullying.
Legal Resources for Parents
Federal civil rights laws require schools to address harassment based on a protected class (i.e., Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990) in reference to race, color, national origin, sex, religion, and disabilities.
Schools are required to conduct an investigation and end the reported protected class harassment. If the harassment continues parents can file a formal grievance with the school district, contact the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, and the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. A list of bullying laws is provided at www.stopbullying.gov/laws/index.html.
Parents are encouraged to contact a child therapist for counseling with their bullied child and for family counseling.
Dr. Missy, Ph.D., is a feelings helper, child therapist, play therapist, and child trauma therapist. She provides therapeutic services at Affirmations, Columbus, Ohio.