Filing a Formal Bullying Complaint
Q. What should I be doing to prepare for making a report of bullying and what counts as documentation?
A. The more documentation you have, the more you are going to be able to help and collaborate with school personnel in their investigation. Documentation comes in a number of forms, and it is important for you to keep records and copies of everything that could possibly be relevant to your case and not give up your “only copy” of anything. Documentation is considered, but not limited to:
- diaries/accounts with as much detail (names, dates, locations, etc.) as possible including, but not limited to:
- conversations you/your child has had with the alleged “bully;”
- any written communications you have had with school personnel (memos, e-mails, reports, etc.) pertaining to your complaint;
- your conversations with your child about what is and has been going on;
- notes/messages that have been passed around and/or sent on the internet that are part of the bullying;
- photographs of any physical injuries or graffiti; and
- accounts of any attempts that you have made prior to putting the complaint in writing to solve this problem (meetings/phone calls with school personnel, parent/teacher conferences, etc.).
- records from any physicians, social workers and/or counselors who have expert judgments that are relevant and helpful;
- any police reports or other agency documentation that is relevant to your situation; and anything else that you think will demonstrate what your child has experienced.
Q. Is it OK to meet with administrators, teachers and/or guidance staff in the school before I file my written complaint to attempt to get the problem resolved?
A. Absolutely. In fact, it is welcomed and a preferred, courteous way in which to proceed. It is also very important that you not wait until you perceive the situation is dire. Schools are only as good as the information they have and the earlier you bring inappropriate behavior to their attention, the easier it is to intervene and make it stop.
When you do approach your child’s teacher and/or the principal/vice principal, try to remain as calm, respectful and as collaborative as possible. When you make them aware of the situation in this more informal manner, it may very well be the first time they have had any knowledge of the situation and they will work to take care of any problems. It is appropriate to ask them to look into this immediately and report to you what they have found within a reasonable amount of time. And, if they find that what you and your child is experiencing is really happening, it is reasonable to find out what is going to be done to insure that your child will not be the target of bullying in the future. Understand, however, that because of confidentiality standards (FERPA), it may not be possible for the school personnel to let you know all of the specific details of any given situation.
They may not be able to give you a full account of their work behind the scenes because some of the details may be confidential. The more cooperative, reasonable and collaborative you are as the process is taking place, the more respectful and serious you will be taken, and that the matter is likely to be resolved in a satisfactory manner for everyone.
Interventions work when the negative behaviors end. If you cannot be given the details of the full intervention plan, you will know if the implemented strategies are working if your child is once again physically, emotionally and intellectually safe.
Q. If I cannot get the situation resolved informally, to whom do I address the written formal complaint of the allegation of bullying?
A. It is appropriate to direct the letter to the school principal, but you may want others to have a copy of the letter as well. The people you may also want to send duplicate copies to may include, but not be limited to, superintendent, school board member(s), teacher(s), social worker/counselor and so on. If you have gotten any expert advice, you may also want to provide a copy of your letter to that expert(s). Finally, make sure that you keep a copy of the letter you send for your files along with copies of everything else that may be included.
Q. Is there a particular school/district bullying complaint form?
A. A few districts have a specific “Bullying Complaint Form.” You will have to ask if your district has such a form. If not, you would just write a formal letter.
Q. What information should I include in my written complaint and how should I put it together?
A. You should put together a letter that details what you believe your child has experienced that constitutes bullying. It can be hand written or done on a computer. The letter should make it clear that you are invoking the Connecticut anti-bullying law and the particular policy of your school district. It should outline in as much detail as you choose, exactly what has been going on and for what period of time this has been occurring. You need to provide as much detailed information as you possibly can, including names, dates and locations for the alleged bullying. Bullying takes many forms: physical, verbal and/or emotional. The information that you provide will help school administrators in their investigation process. It is also advisable to end your letter by stating that after the investigation, whether or not the district concludes that what has happened to your child is a “verified act of bullying,” that you want your child to be safe and not experience any kind of hurtful behaviors.
Q. As the process moves forward, what can I ask the school to do for my child?
A. As frustrating as the circumstances are for your child, the sole thing that you ought to be asking for is that your child be physically, emotionally and intellectually safe in school. It is up to the school, working collaboratively with you, your child and experts in the field to determine how this will be accomplished. It is not your role to dictate to the school what the discipline should be for those who are bullying your child. You cannot demand the other child to be removed from the classroom or school or be suspended or expelled. The school has an obligation to attend and support every child and they will take into account individual circumstances to achieve a satisfactory resolution and safety plan.