Monday, November 23, 2009

Bullying: What is the school’s responsibility?

This series of posts explores the roots and provides recommended responses to childhood bullying. Here’s the introduction to the series:

 Dealing with Bullies and Bullying: Introduction

In helping parents and students navigate the challenges of bullies and bullying, I’m often asked what the school’s responsibility is as it relates to bullying. Since kids are in and around school a majority of their waking hours, it’s only natural that this is the most common place to deal with bullies.

Schools and bullying

The school is responsible for the safety of your child for as long as they are in the care of the school (this includes the school bus). Because of the events at Thurston High, Columbine High, Virginia Tech and others, today’s schools take bullying and threats very seriously. Many schools have adopted a zero-tolerance policy (meaning a bully may receive as little as one warning and then face expulsion).

Talking to school officials

Whether talking to school officials or the parents of bullies, the same advice applies. Approach the issue with a calm, but firm and specific complaint. Do not use accusations or make threats. You’re much more likely to get cooperation of school officials and administrators by trying to resolve the issue rationally.

When to escalate the issue to the proper authorities

If you are not satisfied with the solutions or redress offered by the school, you can always bring the issue to the attention of the local authorities. A quick online search will provide several examples of parents taking legal action as well as several very public examples of parents acting both properly and improperly in response to bullying of their child.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

How should adults respond to bullying?

This series of posts explores the roots and provides recommended responses to childhood bullying. Here’s the introduction to the series:

 Dealing with Bullies and Bullying: Introduction

With bullying on the rise in our schools, it’s more important than ever for kids and parents to understand the underlying causes of bullying and bullies.

Step #1: Listen

When a parent or teacher first learns that a child is a victim of bullying, their first inclination is to ask if the child did anything to bring on this unwanted attention (teasing, wise cracks etc.). This may not be the ideal response. Adults (including parents, teachers, and school administrators) should take care to listen to the child who is reporting the bullying. If a child is describing being bullied, don’t take the position of, “it’s just kids being kids”. Bullying is assault, and its effects should not be taken lightly.

Step #2: Take Action

Determine when and where the bullying is taking place and speak to the adult in charge of that particular place (cafeteria monitor, bus driver, teacher). Ask them to closely monitor the behavior and interaction of the kids involved. If the harassment continues, most schools have disciplinary actions in place to deal with the situation. If the bullying is taking place at an individual’s home (friend, relative, neighbor) the adults should try to get together for a heart to heart talk and determine a solution to the problem.

Step #3: Monitor

After talking with the bully, the adults (parents, teachers, etc.) should carefully monitor the situation for several days to see if the problem persists. Don’t assume the bully will quit because they got a stern talking to, suspended etc. Remember that when confronted, a bully will often say all the right things, and then continue to bully their victim(s).

In a later post, we examine the best response to continued bullying.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Bullying Series: Introduction to Bullies and Bullying

Introduction to Bullies and Bullying
For today’s kids, bullying is on the rise. If you are a parent, chances are good that your child knows a bully, has been bullied, or knows other kids who have experienced bullying. To respond effectively to bullies, it’s important to first establish a definition of what bullying means and what drives kids to bully.

What’s considered bullying?
Bullying can include everything from name calling to harassment, pranks, threats, and verbal and physical assaults. These things aren’t just against school policy. They are criminal activities.

Worst states for bullies
According to new bullying statistics, these states report the highest rates of bullying in grades K–12.
1. California
2. New York
3. Illinois
4. Pennsylvania
5. Washington

Bullying is learned behavior
In some cases, the bully is acting on learned behavior. They may have issues at home with an angry parent or parents. In their home environment, the message (spoken or unspoken) may be that violence can be used to solve problems. As a result, their pent up emotions, aggressions and frustrations boil over into aggressive and often violent behavior. When unresolved, these issues can continue on into adulthood. More often than not, bully parents produce kids who are bullies and continue the cycle.

Confronting a bully
When confronted about bullying and asked whether it is appropriate behavior, a young bully will generally admit that this type of activity is wrong. They will then continue bullying—showing the deep roots of the bullying tendency. Someone who is a known bully should be carefully monitored. Those facing bullying in and around school can benefit from advice on dealing with bullies. I’ll discuss this more in upcoming articles.