What is bullying? At first glance, many people might think this behavior is easy to define. Their first image of bullying might be of a physically intimidating boy beating up a smaller classmate. While that can still be considered bullying today, parents need to know that bullying behaviors can be much more complex and varied than that typical stereotype. For example, harmful bullying can also occur quietly and covertly, through gossip or on the Internet, causing emotional damage. Let’s consider a few definitions of bullying.
Although definitions of bullying vary, most agree that an act is defined as bullying when:
Defining “Harassment” Including Harassment based on Disability The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have stated that bullying may also be considered harassment when it is based on a student’s race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or religion.
Harassing behaviors may include:
Know the Laws Many states have laws that address bullying. The content of each law varies considerably. This interactive map from the Olweus* website contains information on each state’s bullying and harassment laws:
*Dan Olweus, a native of Norway, is considered a pioneer in bullying research and has implemented a model of his bullying prevention program in the United States
Three Steps to Take If Your Child is Being Targeted by Bullying at School It is important that parents approach this situation in a calm manner and that parents keep records of facts in the situation. It is helpful if parents and school staff work together to resolve the issue. Parents can use the following steps to resolve the issue.
I. Work With Your Child Thank your child for telling you. Tell your child that the bullying is not his or her fault. Talk with your child about the specifics of the situation and ask:
Keep a written record of this information.
Practice possible ways for your child to respond to bullying. PACER offers a “Student Action Plan” that walk through potential action steps.
Tell a school staff (teacher, principal, other staff).
Go to step two if needed.
II. Work With The School Meet with your child’s teacher:
Make an appointment to meet with the principal to discuss the bullying situation:
Ask what the school can do to keep your child safe at school, on school bus, etc.
Go to step three if needed.
III. Work With District Administration Write a letter or send an email to district superintendent requesting a meeting to discuss the situation. Include name of child, age, grade, school, your address and phone number, background information of the bullying situation and how you have tried to resolve it.
This letter should be as brief and factual as possible. Include the times you are available for this meeting. Send copies of this letter to the principal, special education director (if child is receiving special education) and chair of the school board. Be sure to keep a copy for yourself.
Prepare for this meeting by organizing the information you have kept and the questions you want to ask. Remember to ask what can be done to keep your child safe in school so he/she can learn.
Decide if you want to take someone with you. Clarify their role (e.g., take notes, provide support, contribute information about your child). Be sure to keep a written record of this meeting, including who was present, what was discussed and any decisions that were made.
If after taking these three steps, the bullying issue has not been resolved, you may wish to contact a parent center or advocacy organization for assistance.
*Email is an acceptable way of contacting persons.
-Information provided by Pacer Center