*image courtesy of http://www.sheknows.com
Every parent remembers the school bullies who made us miserable. They stole our lunch money, knocked our books to the ground, or heckled us on the way home from school so often that decades later we still remember their names. Every parent is also haunted by nationwide news coverage of kids who endure months of harassment only to end up in the hospital or dead because they thought it was the only way to end their torment. What we all know is that every kid has the right to feel safe at school.
If you are sick of your kid getting bullied at school, here are some steps you can take:
First, recognize that your child has the same rights as any other person in society to feel safe at home and at school. If they are assaulted, harassed, cyber stalked or robbed they have the same right anyone else does to go to the police. While you might not elect to file a police report for stolen lunch money in third grade you might be well advised to file one for vicious messages and threats that come in on your daughter’s cell phone in high school.
Second, remember that your child’s school is responsible for providing a safe place to learn and play all day, every day. So bullies are a problem they are legally obligated to deal with and if they fail to handle the problem swiftly and decisively they can be fired or even face criminal charges. Furthermore, the solution your school provides can’t be detrimental to your child. Telling a child who is being bullied that they should spend every recess in the office or library is not a solution.
Third, the most important step you can take to end bullying is simply to put your complaints in writing. When you decide enough is enough, write a letter to the school principal informing them of the bullying problem, identifying the misbehaving children, and recounting the events as your child has relayed them to you. Indicate that you expect the bullying to stop, and you wish to be informed of all measures that will be taken in this regard. Mention that unless the matter is resolved immediately you’ll be going to the school board and the local police.
Fourth, be prepared to meet face to face with school officials. For best results have proof that your child has been bullied. A picture of a cell phone with ugly messages on it, a photograph of scraped knees and bruises, a video of your child describing the attack are all powerful evidence. Take notes during each meeting, making sure to identify each person in the meeting, their title, and what they have to say. After each meeting, write a letter that documents what you were told. If you were happy with the plan suggested, you can indicate you look forward to follow through from the school on the promises they made. If you are not happy with how the school plans to end your child’s harassment, write that as well. If you document every transaction with the school and every bullying incident, you are creating a “paper trail” that can be used in civil and criminal prosecution. School officials understand what you are doing and behave accordingly.
Fifth, if the harassment doesn’t end quickly, remove your child from the school and contact the school board. If the bullying is severe, you may elect to do this before you contact school administrators. You can contact the board by phone in an emergency, but make sure you also put everything in writing as well.
Sixth, turn to lawyers and the police when all else fails. As soon as you determine that the school’s administration and the school’s board are incapable of protecting your child, it’s time to start working outside the school system. While this may seem an extreme step, it typically results in a quick resolution to what could be a serious problem.
In some sense every school is a laboratory where children work out how to get along. The occasional argument or garden-variety kindergarten tussle doesn’t merit an overly aggressive response. However, when your child’s mood, behavior and ability to learn are being adversely and repeatedly effected by ill-behaved schoolmates, you must be prepared to take effective action that resolves the problem permanently.