How to Deal with Bullying in Schools

5.  Dealing with Bullying in Schools

There is no magic formula for how to deal with bullying in schools, but as with teenagers or parents, there is a range of possible actions that can be woven together to make a difference.  For example:

#1  Teenagers and Parents.  Be prepared and have people and processes in place to work with teenagers and families that are experiencing bullying.

#2  Upstanders.  Create a program to help students, families and staff be upstanders vs. bystanders.  Ensure that people and processes are in place to support upstanders.

#3  Bullies.  Develop a program to identify bullies and help them get their underlying needs met in healthier ways.

#4  Conflict Resolution.  Create a conflict resolution team that can intervene in bullying situations as well as other conflicts.   This can be staff or staff/student.

#5  Policies & Consequences.  Establish ant-bullying policies (including cyberbullying) with clear consequences and a process for enforcing them.

#6  Education and Training.  Train all staff in bullying and how to prevent and counter it.  Educate students and families about bullying and how to work with the school.

#7  Tip-line.  Create an anonymous tip-line that staff and students can use to report bullying.

#8  School Culture.  Develop a school culture that counters bullying.  Assess the current culture and create a plan to achieve the desired culture.

Bullies thrive wherever authority is week

Families Working with the School

Schools vary dramatically on how well they work with families in dealing a bullying experience.  Some schools are exceptional in collaborating effectively.  Some are simply defensive and shut off families.  Most are somewhere in-between.  The focus here is on what families can do to play their part effectively.

#1  Let your teenager know that you feel the need to work with the school.  Hopefully this comes from conversations with your teenager as part of your collaborative approach to stopping the bullying and is not a surprise.  Ask if they want to be involved.  Make sure that you are clear on the facts of the situation and know the story you want to present.

#2  Meet with your teenager’s teacher, coach, counselor, and/or administrator.

#3  Lay out your daughter’s or son’s experience with the facts as you know them and ask for the school’s perception.  The more common ground you can develop, the better as it will affect decisions, actions, and implementation.

#4  Be assertive (not aggressive unless stonewalled) and listen.  There may simply be a lot that you are unaware of and you can all fill in gaps, fix misperceptions, etc.

#5  Ask for a copy of the school’s policies on bullying, including cyberbullying, and ask how the policy applies to your situation.

#6  Ask about the school’s anti-bullying programs and how they might apply.

#7  Make sure that you end up on common ground about the actions to be take by all parties, including timing and accountability/follow-up.

#8  Keep in mind that change can take time, but track progress and make changes where necessary in the plan of action

Your daughter or son may not want you to contact the school and they need to be heard.  There may be interim steps that can be taken before engaging the school.  You may need to gather more information about the bullying experiences to have an actionable case.  Your son or daughter may simply need to get used to the idea.  However, as the parent, the final decision is yours.  Just make sure that, if you go counter to your daughter’s or son’s wishes, you are acting to meet their needs, not yours. 

School administrators can’t say it’s up to the parents. Parents can’t say it’s up to the teachers. Teachers can’t say it’s not their job. And kids can’t say, “I was too afraid to tell.” Every single one of us has to play our role if we’re serious about putting an end to the madness. We are all responsible. We must be.

Megan Kelley

If You Need More Help than the School Can Provide

There may be times when the bullying is so dangerous or resistant that you need more than the school can provide.  In those cases, act to:

  1. Seek legal advice
  2. Involve the police
  3. Apply to the courts for a restraining order against the bully
  4. Contact service providers to deal with cyberbullying
  5. Contact the education department or an ombudsman to make a complaint
  6. Focus on other organizations that work with teenagers – sports organizations, religious communities, and various youth groups.