Help! My child is being bullied is a sentence seen all too often online. Parents of the bullied children try to reach out for help but are often met with silence, empty words, and maybe some empathy but at the end of the day, they have no resolution. As a parent of a child that has had a few bullies over the years, I’m going to give you some advice on how to handle it. It’s not going to be popular advice but I assure you, if you follow it, the bullying will stop. All the nonsense will stop.
First, I want to say I am sorry that you and your child are going through this. It is very hard to watch someone harm your child and feel helpless. But I assure you, you are not helpless. You just don’t know how to navigate this bizarre situation you find yourself in.
You are going to feel emotions that are going to drain you. This is just as draining for your child too. Remember to take time and heal as a family during and after this ordeal. That may mean seeking out someone for your child to talk to and maybe for you to talk to as well. It may mean taking a self-defense class so your child and you feel more confident. But keep telling yourself, you will get through this. This is the time to take your power back and to teach your child how to claim their power.
The School is Not There For You
The school is not there for you. Yes, I said it and you need to read it again. THE SCHOOL IS NOT THERE FOR YOU. The school is going to protect itself. They will give you lip service, they may even try to turn it around on your child, the victim, and make excuses for the bully. The school and all its administration is looking out for themselves. If they think they can silence you, pacify you and get you to go away they will. So here is what you need to do –
Document everything. Every time your child has an encounter with the bully you write down the date, time, where it happened, who your child told, and what was done. If there are visible marks or bruises take photos. If there was a physical altercation make a police report out. It does not matter if the other child is 8, 10 or 15. Make that police report. If you are asked why you are making the police report you explain to the officer that you want documentation of what happened plus you are educating your child on how to stand up for themselves and work within the system.
If the bullying is happening online take screenshots. Screenshot it all. Video record it. You want to capture everything that is happening.
Read the Handbook
Every school year, you as a parent sign a handbook for the school saying that you have read the policies. Now, I want you to actually go read those policies! The school is counting on you not knowing the policies.
The majority, if not all schools, have an anti-bullying policy. Read it. Learn it. Commit it to memory. Now, take that policy and follow it.
If the policy says you must notify them in a specific way with a specific form, do it. And when you turn in that form, not only do you turn it into the person on the form but you cc the Superintendent and every single member of the school board.
I have found that once the school knows you have read the handbook, know what the rules are and you are holding them accountable to the rules they wrote things usually start to turn around.
If you find the school is not following the anti-bullying policies then you send emails laying out the infraction and stating the page and policy in the handbook and wrap up your message with what should have occurred per their handbook. And that email gets sent to everyone on the school board, the superintendent, and the principal of the school.
Keep all your reports, emails, and documentation emotionless. Stick to the facts. Dates, times, what happened, who was there, how it was handled. If you start to inflict emotion it will be used against you.
I know this sounds harsh. But you are not there to make friends or be seen as nice. You are there to advocate and protect your child. At this point, no one else matters and no one’s opinions of you matter.
Seek Professional Help
Seeking professional help can look like a few things. If the school is not moving fast enough and your child is continuing to be assaulted verbally or phyiscally you may need to take it to the next level. That means you may want to consult an attorney or professional agency that handles bullying issues with schools.
In Minnesota we have PACER. It’s a wonderful organization that can be utilized for educating yourself on your rights and what to do. Or, they can come and meet with you and the school and help facilitate a resolution. PACER reminds the school of its legal responsibility. They are like a watchdog. And schools typically do not want them there.
PACER will also help educate you on what the laws are and what responsibility the school has. They will also tell you how to go about advocating for your child to get results.
Unfortunately, bullying is not resolved overnight. It takes time. Being diligent is a must. You have to stay on top of it. Follow up with people. Make sure what has been promised is actually done. The school system is broken and short staffed so it’s the squeaky wheel that gets attention. So if you were told that the bully was going to be placed in a new classroom you must follow up and make sure they were. Another thing, your child should not have to make any accommodations. Your child, the victim, should not have to change classrooms, switch teachers, drop a class or eat lunch somewhere else. They are the VICTIM. The bully is the one that should have the disruption. The bully chose to make poor choices and inflict mental, physical, and emotional abuse on other students they should feel the consequences of their actions. The victim does not have to keep experiencing disruption, pain, or lose their routine because another student can’t control themselves. But, the school will try to make the victim concede and change their routine. It’s easier for the school. But it’s not about what is easiest for the school. It is about what is best for the victim. And if it is best for the victim to stay with a certain teacher or routine then you refuse and make the bully switch.
This is not an easy road to walk. Most people do not want to rock the boat or put themselves in a position where they have to definitively say another person is in the wrong but that is exactly what needs to happen. You may even find that other parents gossip about you, say unkind words, or are just flat-out mean to you and your family. That’s ok. It’s on them. Right now, at this chapter in your life, all these people seem important. But they are not important. They will be in your life for a chapter or two. You are not here to make friends. You are not here to make everyone feel good about themselves. You are here to advocate for your child. Protect your child. Raise your child to be a contributing member of society. You are responsible for your child and yourself. How other people feel is not your responsibility.
It is extremely easy to get caught up in victim energy and to feel trapped. DON’T. Now is the time to realize you have power. Take it back. And make others see your power.