8 Things to Expect From the School When Your Child is Bullied

Discover a school’s responsibility in bullying incidents


When your child is bullied at school, it is common to feel overwhelmed. But, if you make an effort to remain calm and formulate a plan of action, both you and your child will benefit.

First, be sure you respond to your child in the most productive way. You want to create a safe environment for your child to talk with you without getting angry or shaming your child. Find out as much information as you can about the incident and take steps to ensure your child’s health and wellbeing have been addressed.

Second, if the bullying occurred at school, it is important to contact the teacher, counselor or principal right away. But be sure your expectations of the school and its staff are reasonable. While the school should respond immediately to any allegations of bullying, they also have certain guidelines they must adhere to when addressing the situation. If you are not sure what those are, be sure to ask.

Here is an overview of the top eight things you can expect from the school when your child is bullied.

School staff has a responsibility to investigate complaints about bullying immediately. In no situation is it acceptable for school staff to ignore your complaints about bullying. If you find that the school is not investigating the bullying incident or they are not taking it seriously, continue to climb the ladder until you find someone within the district that will listen to your complaints and investigate the matter.

It’s also appropriate to contact the police when physical violence or threats of physical violence have occurred. Even if someone tells your child that he should kill himself, this should be reported to the police.

School staff should inform you of their next steps. Once a complaint is filed, the school staff should let you know what they plan to do next.

If they do not offer this information, then ask for it. You should end your meeting or telephone conversation with a clear idea of what will happen next. Be sure you are comfortable with everything the school plans to do. The last thing you want to have happen is that the bullying becomes worse for your child. The goal is to create a partnership with the school in addressing this situation.

School staff has a responsibility to take steps to keep your child safe. One of the biggest mistakes schools make is holding a joint meeting with your child and the person who bullied him. Not only is this embarrassing for your child, but it also is intimidating and could put your child at risk for more bullying. If the school staff suggests such a meeting, remind them that bullying is a form of victimization and not conflict. Bullying cannot be solved with mediation.

What’s more, educators should assure your child that they will do what they can to ensure the bullying stops, even if this means locker changes and schedule changes.

There also are things that classroom teachers can do to reduce bullying in their classrooms. And there a number of things schools can do to eliminate the possibility for bullying. Don’t be afraid to ask how they plan to keep your child safe. And if you have particular ideas, don’t be afraid to ask for those changes.

School staff should meet with the child who is suspected of bullying. While most schools are prohibited from telling you how they plan to discipline the bully, it is acceptable to expect them to confront the bully about his behavior. The goal is that the bully will not only experience some type of consequences, but that he also will learn to take responsibility for his actions. It’s also appropriate to expect that the bully’s parents will be notified.

School staff should avoid blaming victims. Bullying is always a choice made by the bully and not something the victim caused. A victim is never responsible for the choices of another. Consequently, your child should not be made to feel like there is something wrong with him. However, if your child lacks self-esteem, social skills or assertiveness, talk with the school counselor for ideas on addressing these areas. While lacking these skills is never an excuse for bullying, giving your child tools to avoid bullies in the future will make him more resilient and self-confident.

School staff should continue to monitor the situation and follow up with your child. Bullying often continues or even escalates after it has been reported and investigated. Be sure your school’s staff is following up with your child periodically to determine how things are going and addressing any other incidents. You can ensure this happens by maintaining a dialogue with your child about the bullying and contacting the school if any future incidents occur.

School staff has a responsibility to follow state laws regarding bullying. Every state addresses bullying differently. For instance, many states address bullying through laws in their state education codes and elsewhere while others have implemented model policies. Additionally, bullying, cyberbullying and other similar behaviors may be addressed in a single law or they may be addressed in multiple laws. And in some states, bullying appears in the criminal code of a state that may apply to juveniles. Your school has a responsibility to abide by those laws.

Schools have an ethical responsibility to implement anti-bullying campaigns. There is no doubt that the presence of bullying impacts the learning environment in the school. In fact, research shows when bullying is prevalent, then testing scores are lower overall. Not only do schools have to implement anti-bullying programs per their state’s laws and guidelines, but they also have an ethical responsibility to do so. Bullying impacts everyone involved including bystanders and schools should do everything they can to change their school’s climate. Not doing so is irresponsible and undermines the school’s educational goals. 

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