When your child is the target of bullying, a parent’s first response is often an emotional one, followed by a sense of wanting to know the most effective, action-oriented response. Building positive relationships between the school, parents, and students will ensure that a plan and timeline of action can be quickly set in place to prevent further bullying.
It can be heartbreaking for parents to learn that their child is being bullied at school. It is difficult for parents to know what to do when a report of bullying is made, and if they should have done something ahead of time that might have influenced what happened to their child. Developing positive relationships with teachers and staff, while using effective communication tools, can help greatly when dealing with a difficult situation such as bullying.
Staff are often the first adults to learn about a school bullying situation, and they can identify different patterns and social patterns with students than parents do at home. Partnerships between parents and school personnel is one of the best ways to prevent further bullying and is essential when bullying is happening at school.
Here are some best practices to guide parents working with school staff toward a healthier and safer school environment for their child:
- Speak with an adult at school who knows your child well
- Do establish a relationship with your child’s teachers at the beginning of the school year.
- Do immediately contact a teacher or another staff member (such as the principal or an advisor) who is close to your child if there is a report of bullying.
- Do understand that they may redirect you to the appropriate person. In some schools this is the dean of students; in other schools, it might be the vice principal who is responsible for bullying and discipline issues. The information on who to contact and how the process will be addressed should be available on your school’s website, from school administration, or in your parent handbook.
- Keeping records and written information
- Do document and create a timeline for what your child has told you with dates, times, and people involved in the bullying.
- Do note who you speak to at the school.
- Do ask about the timing of the follow-up process and who will be getting back to you.
- Do create a paper file that will hold hard copies of everything.
- Do keep documentation in that file of all communication with the school, including emails, calls, and letters.
- Do keep a history of any bullying behavior, documenting face-to-face incidents, or the screenshots, texts, or URLs of bullying directed at your child.
- Meeting with school staff
- Do bring your file with you, and prepare questions and a list of priorities and concerns to discuss. Know that it’s possible you will feel stressed; try to stay calm and communicate what your child needs as clearly as possible. Ask in advance what the purpose of the meeting will be and who will be there.
- Do make sure that there is an agenda and that your items are on it.
- Do repeat what you’ve heard so that you can be sure of what school staff are saying.
- Do summarize the outcomes at the end of the meeting.
- Do determine who will be responsible for future steps.
- Do offer thanks for what staff have done so far and what will happen in the future for your child.
- Asking questions
- Do ask what, who, when, where, and how questions.
- Do follow up with constructive phrases such as:
- “Tell me more about…”
- “Please explain…”
- “What do you suggest we do about…?”
- “I think I heard you say… is that correct?”
- Creating a plan
- Do describe the problem clearly while encouraging input from all members of the team.
- Do allow for brainstorming without evaluating the ideas.
- Do participate in the brainstorming as an advocate for your child’s needs.
- Do ask your child for their feedback and ideas on what they’d like to see happen.
- Do choose a solution by consensus (all parties in agreement). Define who is responsible for an action and when it will be done.
- Do put that plan in writing, and create a timeline and criteria to evaluate success.
- Do understand that participation and follow up will be needed from everyone.
While bullying is a difficult situation for everyone involved, a good partnership between the school and parents can help address the situation and prevent further bullying. Using the best practices of good communication strategies and planning, parents can collaborate with the school to ensure a good outcome for their child, whatever the problem.
More details can be found at the interactive online module PACER.org/bullying/resources/parents/working-with-school.asp.
Posted April, 2017