What Is the School's Responsibility When a Child is Bullied?

Bullying Resources for Parents

Little Boy Being Bullied
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It is a given that children and teens cannot learn in a violent environment, like at a school where they are being harassed and bullied. It is up to school administrators, educators and parents to work together to ensure that this is not the case.

According to the HRSA (Health Resources & Services Administration), many schools have taken their responsibility to stop bullying very seriously and have put in place an anti-bullying system of rules and consequences.

  • Several states have passed anti-bullying laws that require public schools to have an anti-bullying program in place.
  • You can request a copy of your school's anti-bullying policies if it is not already in your student's handbook.

What Can You Expect School Administrators, Teachers and Staff to Do About Bullying?

The sad truth is that bullying does happen and preventative measures do not work 100% of the time. Parents cannot expect that a school is able to keep bullying from happening completely.

However, parents can expect schools to take a proactive approach to bullying. Also, bullying should be dealt with in an immediate and firm manner once the school has been made aware of the problem by a student or parent.

The HRSA notes that the following actions can be expected from school administrations (direct quotes from the 2009 "Prevent Bullying Guide" are in bold and quotes). These guidelines are used by many schools as a basis for their own rules and policies

  • "School staff should investigate the bullying immediately." The administration should investigate a parent's concerns and then inform the parents about their plans to remedy the situation.
  • "School staff should never have a joint meeting with your child and the child who bullied them."  A joint meeting may embarrass or intimidate the child who has been bullied and lead to further problems. Also, bullying is not a conflict, but a form of victimization and the school should not refer the kids to mediation.
  • "Staff should meet with your child to learn about the bullying that he or she has experienced." During this meeting, they should assure your child that they will try their hardest to see that the bullying stops. A plan should be developed that will keep your child safe and the staff should remain alert for any signs of bullying in the future.
  • "School personnel should meet with the children who are suspected of taking part in the bullying." During this meeting, staff should make it clear that bullying is not tolerated and is against school rules. The administration can impose consequences if they see it necessary. The child who bullied may lose privileges like recess or their parents may be notified.
  • "Educators and parents should be careful not to 'blame the victim.'" The child who is bullied should never be made to feel like it was their fault or that they were responsible for what happened. However, it is possible that a bully may be reacting out of annoyance if your child "is impulsive or lacks social skills." If this is found to be a cause during the investigation, discuss this issue with the school's counselor. No one should agree that this behavior justifies being bullied, but it may help explain why it happened.
  • "Give the school reasonable time to investigate and hear both sides of the story." It should not take longer than a week for the investigation, but give the school's administration time. "Educators should not jump to hasty conclusions and assign blame without a thorough assessment of the situation."
  • "If bullying continues, write to the school's principal or administrator." Creating written documentation will record your concerns. Be sure to include any evidence to back up your complaint. 
  • "Most administrators and staff are responsive to bullying concerns. However, if your school administrator is unable or unwilling to stop the bullying, write to your school superintendent for assistance."
  • Be persistent. Bullying is an ongoing issue and it is important for parents to share their stories.

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