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What should you do if your child is being bullied...

The American Psychological Association defines bullying as, “aggressive behavior that is intended to cause distress or harm, involves an imbalance of power or strength between the aggressor and the victim, and occurs repeatedly over time. Bullying may take many forms, including physical, verbal, relational and cyber” (“Bullying and School Climate,” n.d.). Bullying is linked to decreased self-esteem, lower academic success, depression and suicide in its victims. Parents are the key to helping their children successfully overcome bullying.  By implementing the following game plan, parents can ensure their child’s mental and physical safety.

1.     Ask Questions

Certain groups of students are more likely to be targeted, for example, based on disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, weight, race or religion (“Bullying and School Climate,” n.d.). Despite this fact, bullying knows no bounds, and many children who are bullied keep it a secret. Victims may feel it is deserved, especially if they already have low self-esteem. They often suffer in silence because they feel humiliated, and they don’t want to embarrass their family. Parents need to keep the lines of communication open with their child. If you notice your child has become withdrawn, angry or emotional, investigate the situation.

2.     Be Your Child’s Ally

If your child confesses that they are being bullied, assure them they have your full attention and support. Let them know you will help in whatever way you can. Your first course of action is to become knowledgeable about the school’s anti-bullying protocol. This will provide you with a solid foundation when meeting with school officials. Also, make sure to document every incident in detail. Provide the dates, times, actions, and results. Going into a meeting with school representatives, armed with facts, provides you with knowledge and power to advocate for your child.

3.     Schedule a Meeting

Meet with your child’s teacher(s), guidance counselor and principal, face to face, to inform them of the situation. If your child has special needs, or an IEP, which includes other professionals, make sure those professionals are also at the meeting. Determine any knowledge officials have concerning incidents involving your child. School officials must document known incidents of bullying, and it is your right to request copies of those documents pertaining to your child.

As difficult as it may be, try to keep your emotions out of the discussion. Go in prepared with the facts, and discuss the detailed times, places, and descriptions of the incident(s). This will help officials understand the seriousness of the situation, and assist in forming a plan to correct the problem. Once a plan is agreed upon, make sure it is documented and signed by all members present. Make sure you leave the meeting with a copy of the document.

4.     Move Up the Chain of Command

If you feel your concerns are not being addressed by the teacher(s), guidance counselor, and principal, you may need to move up the chain of authority. Report your concerns to the school superintendent, school board, or state and federal law enforcement. It is important to make sure your school district is taking the situation seriously. Again, make sure you are tracking every incident with dates, times and facts. Details are crucial when discussing the incident, especially when talking with law enforcement. If you feel that despite your best efforts you are not being heard and you don’t feel as though your child is safe, contact an attorney.

5.     File an Official Complaint

Principals are required to notify the school and local authorities when a child is being threatened.  Parents should file a complaint each time there is an incident, not just the initiating occurrence. If the event rise to the level of being criminal, file a complaint with the local police. If you are unsure, contact an attorney.

6.     Get Professional Help

Arrange for your child to see an individual therapist to deal with the anxiety, depression and low self-esteem that often accompanies bullying. Suicide, attributed to bullying factors, is on the rise. Make sure your child has your support, and that of a professional therapist, to help them cope. This is the best way to ensure their mental and physical health and safety.

7.     Regulate Technology

Limit and/or monitor your child’s access to technology. With the advent of the internet, bullying has taken on a more sinister and widespread forum. Keeping track of your child’s cyber interactions can prevent them from being the victim of cyberbullying. Report any cyberbullying issues to the school and local law officials.

8.     Contact the U.S. Department of Education

If you are not receiving the help you need from your school officials, the U.S. Department of Education may be able to help. They take bullying seriously, and they may investigate the situation and assign an educational consultant to the case.

9.     Contact an Attorney

If you feel your concerns are being ignored, contact an attorney to handle your case. It is your child’s legal right to receive an education free from harassment. If you are not sure whether to contact an attorney then you should contact an attorney. Most attorneys accept free consultations and would be happy to talk to you, especially if a child’s safety is on the line.

10. Demand that your child’s rights are being protected.

Students face academic challenges every day of their school career, but they have the right to an education free from intimidation and harm. Parents can advocate for their child by knowing school policy, keeping lines of communication open with their child and the school, and demanding the schools help in assuring their child’s safety. With you as their warrior, your child will survive the bullying and thrive as a successful member of society.

To learn more about your legal rights when it comes to bullying, give us a call at 215-650-7563.

Note, nothing in this article or on this website is to be considered medical or legal advice. 

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