10 Ways to Be an Advocate for Your Bullied Child
Unfortunately, bullying in schools is an issue that has existed, does exist, and will continue to exist. Many schools are now implementing anti-bullying programs in an effort to combat this issue. They may include stricter definitions for what bullying is, how they plan to address it, and plans to educate students, staff, and parents about it. As admirable as these programs are, they don’t always work. It can be very frustrating for parents when they feel their child is the victim of bullying, and they’re not getting the help they need. Below are some tips and ideas for parents on how to address the bullying issue with their child, other parents, and the school.
- Address your child’s class placement for the next school year. At the end of the school year, grade level teachers will usually sit down together to make the tentative class lists for the next year. Either set up a meeting with your child’s current teacher, or send a letter, formally requesting that your child not be in the same class as the students who have been bullying him/her (if you can give the names of specific students that would be best). Explain that being in the same classroom as these students has proven to be a detriment to your child’s learning. Give a copy of the dated letter to your child’s teacher, (maybe even the teacher’s in the next grade up), the principal, school counselor/social worker, and you can even ask that a copy be put in your child’s permanent file. This way they can’t deny that you made the request, everyone was aware of it, and when the request was made.
- If there have been problems in this past school year, I would also ask for copies of all the discipline documentation they have on your child for the year. Request anything where he/she was disciplined, or where another student was disciplined for their actions toward your child. That will give you a record of everything that's been going on (that they've documented anyway), and what the consequences were. Not only will this give you a better insight to what exactly was going on, but also how it was handled, and if it was handled with consistency.
- Encourage your child to report every instance of bullying to their teacher, or another adult at school that they trust (nurse, counselor, social worker, etc.). Many kids don’t report things because they feel it won’t change anything, will make the bullying worse, or they’ll lose the friends they do have for being a tattle-tale. This can be tough to overcome. However, you have much more success of ending the bullying if your child reports the incidents. Only then can it be documented and dealt with.
- If your child is having problems with a few specific students, ask the teacher/principal/counselor, if a meeting is possible between you and the children's parents. If you can talk to them face to face about your concerns, it may prompt them to have a serious discussion with their children about bullying others.
- If the bullying continues next year, start off the year by asking for (in writing) copies of all incidents that involve your child. The teacher/staff will be much more likely to document everything if they know you’ll be expecting it at home. You’ll also have them to use as evidence of the bullying if you need them later down the line.
- If he/she starts being bullied again next year, ask for a meeting with the principal, teacher, and the counselor, and tell them you want an action plan drawn up for how they plan to deal with it. That should lay out a specific process for reporting the bullying, documenting it, communicating it to you, and the consequences. This will hold the school staff accountable for following a designated plan, and most likely keep them more diligent about attending to the problems.
- Sometimes parents get frustrated with the school telling them that it was a tit-for-tat thing, that their child provoked it or was complicit, etc. If you feel this isn’t the case, you may want to suggest a behavior contract or plan for your child. If he/she isn’t in the wrong, it could help protect him/her because the teacher will have to document their behavior throughout the day. If your child doesn't provoke anything, it will be documented that they weren’t in the wrong. The more work the teacher has to do; the more proactive they’ll be about stopping the bullying.
- If you feel that the school just isn’t an acceptable environment for your child, you may want to consider a private school, homeschooling, or possibly switching schools within your district. Talk to your school district’s main office or education center about this. Oftentimes a child can switch schools within the district if they’re having serious problems that prevent them from learning. This option may not be financially or logistically feasible for all parents, but it’s worth checking into.
- If you feel you’re not getting the support at the school level, go over their heads to your district office and superintendent. Some parents feel this is overreacting or taking it too far, but it’s not at all. If you don’t feel they’re doing their job, go to their supervisor whether it’s over a teacher to the principal, or over the principal to the superintendent.
My biggest pieces of advice are to be a relentless advocate for your child and get as much documentation as possible. From personal experience, when I have a parent who is very involved and on top of their game, and demanding about documentation and communication, I really try to do everything proactively and by the book because I know if I don’t they’ll be after me. Not that I don’t anyway, but when you have a parent that is an extremely strong advocate for their child you make an extra effort to stay on top of every little thing. Also, be demanding about the documentation. The less documents and specific evidence you have, the easier it is for them to brush you off. If you document as much as you can, it will be harder for them to deny things down the road.
Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons and Tammra McCauley
About Hannah T
I am a 2010 graduate with a degree and certification in Elementary Ed., and I have worked with students from birth to junior high. I believe that one of the most important qualities to surviving a teaching career is a sense of humor. I also strongly feel that students are most successful when they are active and hands-on learners. My Mom was a Special Ed. teacher for almost 30 years, and my Dad was an English major, so I enjoy bouncing blog ideas off the two of them. This usually results in an exchange of great stories with my Mom, and a correction in my writing from my Dad. When they're not available, the job falls to my rescue dog, Coozie.