It can be terrifying for parents to learn their child is being bullied. What many families find as they seek help from the school is that schools have limited resources and tools to train teachers and administrators on how to effectively handle bullying—and that the reputation of a school system can take priority over any one child. A parent’s fight to protect their kids can make them feel as if they are the enemy.
But families cannot let the painful experience of bullying define them. They are not victims, but change agents who can make the world better for their kids, as well as other children. The greatest lesson is that parents have a voice, and they can use it for good. They can make a difference.
Email provides a record of your complaint. It is likely school officials will not respond to you because they know that your email is a public record (if your child is in a public school) and the media can access it through open records requests. Continue the electronic communication even if they suggest otherwise.
Meet with teachers, the principal and/or school system officials to devise a plan to keep your child safe. Be calm. Do not accuse. Go to the meeting with a genuine goal of working with them. Give them a chance, but insist on action. Confirm in writing any plan agreed upon. Set up regular meetings to assure agreed actions are taken. If school officials try to harass or intimidate your, report it in writing and insist that they stop.
Know your rights and ensure that the individuals you are working with at school know your rights as well. Do the research. See if your state has an anti-bullying bill and know what it means. Use it to help your child.
See how they can assist you. If or when the violence or threats cross a threshold, understand how you can access the legal system. Ask if you can file a report for the purposes of expressing your concerns without filing a formal report.
Some require you to first file a formal legal complaint. They may be able to require that the bully and their family members receive counseling and/or other services that will assist the bully to change the behavior. The more complaints that are filed, the more the court can mandate intervention, which may help the child change his/her behavior.
Do not let school officials—teachers, counselors, principal or school system personnel—meet with your child alone. Put it in writing and require that any meetings with your child about this subject or any other require the presence of a parent.
Take your child to a pediatrician and discuss any symptoms that he or she may be experiencing--such as stomach pain, panic attacks or headaches--and how the bullying may be affecting your child's physical and emotional health. Be open to what is recommended. Consider counseling. Talk and listen to your child.
More than 160,000 kids miss school every day because they are afraid. Kids who are in fear do not learn. Talk with the school about their responsibility to not only keep your child safe, but also to work with him or her to ensure performance is not affected as a result of bullying. It can mean the difference between being placed in gifted education or not. It also can make a difference in classroom placement.
A commitment to this goal is important to your child’s overall success in school. If ignored, it can affect a child’s confidence and self-esteem.
Education is the key to change—for schools, for the bully, for the community and for families. Education lifts the veil of fear and allows us to come together for the good of our youth. Your voice will give someone else the courage to tell their story and to ask for help.
This is an opportunity to be an advocate for your children and to assure them that you will indeed protect them. Show your children the power of standing up for what is right. Be sure to tell your story and talk to the media. Use this as an opportunity to shine a light on this issue. Be positive, but be honest.
At the end of the day, we as parents do our best to protect our children, to set a good example, and to lead their moral compass to know what is right and wrong. Our hope is they are not bystanders as it relates to bullying or to life. Bad things are going to happen in life and we can ignore it, blame others or be a part of the solution. Change does happen one person at a time.
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