Taking First Steps
My child is telling me details about what is happening but begging me not to go to the school and tell due to worries about the situation getting worse. What should I do? Go in regardless or honor my child's wishes?
Q. I think my child is being bullied! Help!
A. If you believe your child is being bullied, you need to speak to your child’s teacher or counselor immediately and informally. Often such a conversation will be enough to make the situation better for your child. If this is not sufficient, then report this again in writing to the teacher or counselor especially if you have never done so before. If you do not get the help or attention that you believe you need, you should then report it in writing to the school principal(s).
Q. If I believe my child is being bullied and he/she is a student identified as having “special needs” (has an Individual Education Plan “IEP” or 504 plan), is this relevant?
A. Children identified as having special needs are three to five times more at risk for being targets of bullies than children not identified. As the process of implementing interventions to make the school environment safe for all children moves forward, it is both appropriate and helpful to work toward managing the safety and well-being of your child through the Planning and Placement Team (PPT) process and in creation of the IEP or 504 Plan.
Q. What if my child has only been teased/taunted/excluded/called names only once or a couple of times … should I still report it?
A. All acts of inappropriate and mean-spirited behavior cannot be tolerated. True bullying is an abuse of power, and is commonly defined as “repeated,” or “patterned.” Verified acts of bullying always begin with a first act or incidence of meanness. Teachers and principals care very deeply for the safety and welfare of each student, and very often, the mean-spirited acts that your child may be experiencing are happening out of the direct view of the adults in the school. Teachers and principals cannot be expected to solve problems of which they are not aware. It is much easier to stop the actions from escalating when the incidents are identified and communicated to school personnel as early as possible.
Q. My child is telling me details about what is happening but begging me not to go to the school and tell due to worries about the situation getting worse. What should I do? Go in regardless or honor my child’s wishes?
A. It is often possible to set up a meeting with the relevant school personnel without letting your child know that you are doing so. When you meet, an excellent strategy is to open the meeting by letting the adult(s) you are meeting with know that your child asked you not to come because of the real fears. In addition, when the meeting ends, you might want to remind them that if possible, you would prefer your child does not find out that you met. School personnel understand this real dilemma and are trained to know how to work behind the scenes and keep your child safe from retaliatory behavior from peers and not give anyone any indication that the detailed information you are sharing came from you or your child.
Q. Should I speak to the parents/guardians of the child who is bullying my child?
A. It generally is not productive to speak to the parents/guardians of the child(ren) you believe are bullying your child. Some parents/guardians may naturally be defensive and may attempt to blame your child for “starting it.” Try to ask your own child questions about the incident(s) and find out your own child’s role and actions in the event. Even though you may believe, the bullying is primarily happening outside of school, school personnel may be able to help resolve the problem depending upon the circumstances. Very often, similar acts are also happening in school although less visible and blatant. In addition, what may be going on during after-school hours may have a direct impact on the learning environment, so the school most often has a vested interest in assisting with solving problems no matter where they happen.
Q. Where should I go if the bullying seems only to be happening outside of school (in community settings) or that it is escalating into serious and threatening behaviors?
A. If your child’s schoolteacher, counselor or principal tells you that they cannot help you with your child’s situation and/or it seems to be escalating into very serious behaviors, you should bring the matter to your local police department and file a police report.