What to Do If Your Child Is Bullied
Bullying is a serious matter that should not be taken lightly. Not only can bullying have devastating effects on school-age children, there can be legal consequences to teachers and schools who do not respond to substantiated cases of bullying on school grounds. The act of cyberbullying, in which mobile phones or other communications technology is used to taunt or humiliate another individual, often magnifies the painful experience.
If you suspect your child is being bullied, there are steps you can take to stop or prevent it from happening again.
Warning Signs Your Child Is Being Bullied
Bullying can take many forms and may occur in a number of situations. From a legal perspective, bullying is defined as verbal, physical, or mental acts committed by a student to harass, intimidate, or cause harm to another student.
Below are possible warnings signs that your child is being bullied:
- Your child comes home with unexplained bumps, bruises, or cuts on more than one occasion
- Your child spends a lot of time alone, both at home and at school, and has very few friends
- Your child does not enjoy school as often as he or she once did
- Your child misses school often or asks to “stay home”
- Your child’s school work starts to decline
- Your child appears sad, depressed, or moody at all times
- Your child increasingly suffers from low self-esteem
- You notice a considerable change in your child’s appetite or his or her desire to eat
- Your child takes an alternate route to school, even if out of the way
- Your child complains of physical illnesses, such as headaches, backaches, and stomachaches
- Your child has trouble sleeping, or falling asleep and/or has recurring nightmares
What You Can Do
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to stop or prevent bullying from happening or re-occurring to your child. Legally, schools must do all it reasonably can to help stop and prevent bullying it knows (or should have known) about a serious harm that has been done to a child. Otherwise, the school can become legally responsible if it has not done anything to prevent or stop the offending behavior.
If your child is being bullied, you can take the following actions:
- Become an active listener. It is extremely important that you talk with your child each day and ask open-ended questions through the school week. Often part of the challenge is getting your child to open up, so being an active listener will go a long way.
- Make a complaint to the school. The next step is to contact your child’s teacher or principal and explain the circumstances surrounding the initial behavior. Depending on the situation, it is important to put in writing the date, details and nature of the incident being complained about.
- Keep a detailed record of all accounts. It is also important that you keep detailed, accurate records of any additional incidents that may occur, and the response received from the school. Be sure to include statements made by your child and any other potential witnesses, as well as an account of how your child felt emotionally.
- Speak to the school’s guidance counselor, if there is one. Ask whether the school has a contact person trained to deal with bullying and, if so, set up a meeting with them and your child.
- Refer to the school’s code of conduct to make sure the school is doing what it is required to do to prevent acts of violence, such as bullying.
- Seek legal advice from an attorney. Finally, if the school or district has not provided a reasonable solution, it may be necessary to speak with an attorney as soon as possible about your situation. Lawyers specializing in cases involving bullying can help victims and their families pursue legal claims against schools and/or parents who are not working to prevent the problem from occurring.
Get Legal Help with a School Bullying Dispute
Once dismissed as merely "kids being kids," school bullying is now taken very seriously, particularly in the wake of countless suicides and school shootings. If you believe your child's school has been negligent in its duty to provide a safe learning environment, leading to serious instances of bullying, you may want to explore your legal options. Find an education law attorney near you and get some peace of mind.