By Michelle Covington

how to end bullying in school

photo credit: Send me adrift. via photopin cc

Bullying has become a widespread problem both in and outside of schools. It is important to note that no organization is completely free from bullying. No matter how great your child’s school district is, or how strong their stance against bullying, there is still the statistical probability that bullying will be present. Bullying takes place in private schools just as often as it occurs in public schools.

Last week, we discussed the best ways to help your child cope with bullying. This week, we will focus on actions you can take with the school and, if necessary, law enforcement to end the bullying. The key is not to blame the school district or organization where the bullying has taken place, but to work with them to put an end to it. No school or organization wants to cultivate an environment where bullying thrives. More likely than not, they will be more than willing to work with you to end bullying.

These 6 steps will help you to effectively put an end to the bullying your child is experiencing.

Step #1: Know the bullying policy of your child’s school

This step should happen before bullying becomes a problem. The best thing to do is ask the school about their bullying policy when you enroll your student. Ask them how they deal with bullies, what documentation they require, and what they consider bullying. Then, before school starts:

  • Talk to your child about the school’s bullying policy
  • Go over what the school does and doesn’t consider bullying and why
  • Develop a plan for how your student will respond if he or she is either the victim of a bully or sees bullying take place
  • Know your own strategy as a parent for how you will deal with the situation

Need a refresher on last week’s tips? Find them here.

Step #2: Document incidents of bullying

Even if the school district your student is enrolled in doesn’t require it, it is very important to document each incident of bullying that occurs. You and your child will need to build a case against the bully. The more data you have gathered, the more effectively you and the school administrators will be able to deal with the problem.

Make sure you gather as many hard facts as you can so that when the bully and the bully’s parents are confronted by the administration, your case will not turn into he-said, she-said. Bullies are typically adept at manipulation and will do whatever they can to avoid getting into trouble. If you do not have the evidence built up against him or her, your child’s case will not be as strong. Make sure that your documentation has only the facts. The point of documentation is to gather evidence, not to present an accusation.

From the first time your child is bullied, sit down with them and begin keeping a log. Your child might be ashamed or afraid of reprisals if the bully finds out they ‘squealed’ and not want to talk about the incident. If this is the case, explain to him or her that keeping a log doesn’t mean that you will confront the school right away. Assure your child that you will decide together when it is appropriate to approach the school, but in case that time comes, you need to have the evidence to present to the school.

Record the date on which the bullying took place, what happened, where it happened, and who else might have been around who can corroborate your child’s story. Also, ask your child if this bully has targeted anyone else. Most likely, they have. It might help your notes after a certain point to get in touch with the parents of any other targets of the bully and compare notes and develop allies who can vouch for your child against the bully. Always be willing to do the same for other parents whose child is being bullied. Helping other bullied students will ultimately help your child as well.

Encourage your child and your child’s friends to video and/or audio record the bullying when it happens. Most students have cell phones. These can be great tools to fight bullying. Make sure they know to bring the recordings to you and not to pass them around or post them online. Different states have different laws regarding what is legal and what is not legal to record and distribute. You don’t want your child getting into trouble. Plus, the point of these recordings is not vindication, but documentation. Let your child know that together you will use these recordings to appropriately and effectively get the bullying stopped.

When cyberbullying occurs, make sure you save emails and texts and take screen shots of social media posts.

Read more about cyberbullying.

Step #3: Contact school administrators

At a certain point, it may be necessary to bring the case you have built to the attention of the school. Discuss with your student if and when this point is reached and decide together when you will approach administrators. Make sure that you keep these meetings civil. Most likely, the school administrators will want to help stop the bullying. But, if you go in accusing the school and the administration, they are less likely to listen to your case or be inclined to help. Be considerate of administrators who have a lot of things to contend with and might be tired and overwhelmed already. The earlier you meet with an administrator in the day and the week, the more likely they will be to have the energy to deal with the situation.

Bring your documentation to the attention of the administrator. Fill them in on what has been going on, and any other students who might have been involved. It is appropriate to voice your concerns for your child’s welfare, but make sure you acknowledge that you know the school and its administration care what happens to their students. Most people who work in school districts do so because they have a passion for students and genuinely want what’s best for them. Make sure that when you are discussing a legitimate case of bullying that you avoid discussion of it as a misunderstanding or a conflict. Bullying is the one-sided attempt to dominate another person by threat, humiliation, or physical harm. It is not a two-sided conflict. Make sure that you are aware of the vocabulary being used by everyone involved in the meeting and correct it when necessary and appropriate. Make sure you end the meeting by discussing steps to resolve the bullying.

Follow up your meeting with a letter summarizing what you discussed and the steps you determined to take. Send a copy to the administrator and keep a copy for your records.

Step #4: Reach out to other parents

You may have already contacted other parents of bullied students before you met with the school administrator. This is fine, but make sure you don’t ambush the administration or plan to take actions without first discussing them with the school. If you have approached them and the school is unwilling to take action against the bullying, then you will want to team up with other parents develop a plan. You might approach the school board and/or PTA to address the problem of bullying in other ways. In these situations, it is good to have a strong group of allied parents standing together on the issue.

Paul Coughlin provides extensive, school-wide anti-bullying trainings that include parents, teachers and administrators, student leaders and the student body as a whole. This may be a good option for your child’s school.

Step #5: Switch schools

This option isn’t the best for everyone, and with the prevalence of cyberbullying, it might not put an end to the bullying. But, it is an important option to discuss with your bullied child. The ideal that is enacted in some schools is to transfer the bully out of the school instead of the victim, but most schools don’t have this option.

Transferring your student to another school gets them away from the situation and out from under the bully’s direct influence. Make sure you have worked with you child on not looking like a target so that the bullying doesn’t begin all over again in the new school. With a new location and some assertiveness skills under their belt, your student can make a healthy fresh start. Encourage them to work at making friends quickly. Having even just one friend can help reduce the chances that your child will be bullied, but three or more is ideal.

Step #6: Get law enforcement involved

If the school refuses to make changes and deal with the bullying problem, you might consider bringing the matter to the attention of law enforcement. Just like when you approached the school, you will need to provide all of your documentation to law enforcement officials. If you decide to build a lawsuit, be prepared for a long, hard fight. Cases of bullying can be very difficult to prove in court. Having good documentation will help, but the burden of proof will be on you.

This long, difficult process is not for everyone and it shouldn’t be a decision you come to lightly. However, if you have exhausted every other option at your disposal, law enforcement may be able to get the results that you weren’t.

 

*This article was written with assistance from Paul Coughlin’s parent resource “4-Circle Solution to Bullying.” The full document will be available for purchase soon from The Protectors website.

 

Learn more about bullying on our bullying topic page.

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