When your child is being bullied at school, his or her teacher and school should be your first line of defense. Unfortunately, students and parents do not always get adequate anti-bullying support from the school.
I want to empower you to help your child if the school does not solve a bullying problem. Here’s what to do if you aren’t getting the support you need from the school.
Be Your Child’s Advocate
No matter what the school says, it is your job to be on your child’s side.
Being bullied can destroy your child’s self-esteem. Knowing that you believe his story and are there for him has an empowering effect that helps rebuild confidence.
When your child is being bullied, you must become a thorough note-taker. Make it your goal to keep accurate, detailed notes about each instance of bullying that your child reports.
Include the following information in your records:
- Who was involved in the incident.
- What happened.
- What was said.
- Where and when the incident took place.
- How your child felt and responded.
Dr. Karyn Gordon presents information about keeping records in the video “How to Deal with Bullying at School.”
When going to the school or the authorities, use these records as factual support for your concerns.
Seek Professional Counselling
Being bullied can lead to mental health concerns, such as anxiety and depression. To learn more about the long-term effects of bullying, watch the video “Bullying Exerts Psychiatric Effects into Adulthood.”
Your child needs a safe, supportive place outside of your home to process his feelings and concerns. Appropriate mental health support can help your child work through the effects of bullying, so set an appointment for your student to meet with a counsellor.
Speak Until Someone Listens
Perhaps you started by approaching your child’s teacher about the bullying, and for one reason or another, the situation was downplayed. It could be that the teacher felt unequipped to handle the problem or didn’t realize the gravity of the situation.
If speaking to the teacher doesn’t lead to action, it is your responsibility as a parent to keep going until you get someone’s attention.
Contact Additional School Staff
If you are not receiving a satisfactory response from your child’s teacher, get in touch with other employees at the school.
If possible, move up through the chain of command. For example, first take the issue to the principal and then to the superintendent.
The matter can also be taken to the school board if you don’t receive a satisfactory response from staff.
Take records of whom else you have talked to and when you did so. Be prepared with specific examples of bullying behavior, and keep your voice calm and level as you speak.
Do your best to build a support system of school staff who will look out for your child, even if your child’s own classroom teacher isn’t stepping up to the job. This group might include:
- Other teachers.
- The principal.
- Bus drivers.
- Hall monitors.
Reach Out to Other Families
You may need to build a support system of other families around you. When multiple families unite their voices, change is more likely to happen.
Your child is probably not the only one with a problem like this. Ask around to see if other parents are aware of bullying instances that have affected their kids.
You could go to the PTO and enlist their support. You may also be able to form a parent coalition to address bullying in your school and suggest solutions.
Keep in mind that gathering parent support is not the same as badmouthing the school or the bullies. Rather, it’s rallying community members to make a positive change in local schools that will benefit all students.
Limit Communication with Parents to the Proper Channels
If the school is not taking action to resolve the problem, it might be tempting to go directly to the bully’s parents. Most experts, however, caution that this is not a wise course of action.
If confronted, the parents’ most likely reaction is to be defensive of their child. Therefore, it is better for the information to come from a third party, such as the school, rather than an emotionally involved parent.
Furthermore, it is possible that the parents have been encouraging the bullying behavior. The parents might be bullies themselves.
Pursue Legal Action
You may need to move beyond the school and seek help from outside authorities. This can be a step that you take while still trying to work though school channels, or it might be a process that you move on to after exhausting your options with the school.
Research Anti-bullying Laws
States have different legislation regarding bullying. Before pursuing legal avenues to stop a bully, research the laws in your state.
Your state’s anti-bullying laws might cover:
- The responsibilities of the school.
- The criminalization of bullying.
Contact the Police
Once you have studied your state’s anti-bullying laws, you will have a better understanding of how the police might be able to help. Knowing the law can help you discern where the bullying has shifted from just a school issue to a larger legal issue.
For example, your state’s legislation about cyberbullying might give the police grounds to take action against harassment that is taking place online.
Bringing charges against the bully can be an effective strategy. This provides a legal record of the concerns, and it serves as a reminder to the student and parents that this behavior can have far-reaching consequences that follow him throughout life.
You are the best advocate for your child, so when a bully threatens, it is your job to get help for your kid. Start with the school, but if school personnel don’t listen at first, keep going until someone does.
If you have questions about how to approach your child’s school, please leave a comment below.
In the meantime, remember to:
- Take careful records of bullying incidents.
- Get professional help for your child.
- Reach out to other school staff.
- Rally parents, but do not reach out to the bully’s parents directly.
- Learn the law and involve authorities.