You watch your normally bubbly child sluggishly get into the car after school. Your parent radar kicks in and you know something is wrong. Is she sick? Does she have a lot of homework? You ask her probing questions and finally through tears she tells you she has been pushed around all day, yelled at and called names from the other kids in school.
Your first reaction is outrage to “those kids”, to the parents and to the school. While anger is a perfectly normal emotion for this situation, it is important to stay calm for your child’s sake. If a child has been on the receiving end of anger at school she does not need to have anger directed at her at home. You might say to your child, “Those kids are making poor behavior choices,” rather than, “Those are bad kids.” Remind her about ways other kids may or may not be allowed into her personal space. For example, high fives and a friendly pat on the back are fine, but hitting, kicking spitting, pushing, saying hurtful words out loud or by text, gossip, and uncomfortable touching are not allowed.
Here are some practical things you can do to protect your child.
1. Call the teacher and set up a conference time the next day to develop an intervention and protection plan for your child to stop the abuse.
2. If the mean behavior continues, call the school principal, vice principal, or an advocate to ask for help protecting your child.
3. If the abuse continues or is not satisfactorily resolved, contact the education department, school board, or other governing body, to lodge a formal complaint.
4. If the abuse still continues, or gets worse, notify the police and/or child protective services, and possibly the Office of Civil Rights. It is against the law in this country to abuse a child, and it is likely a violation of their civil rights.
5. It is NOT recommended that you talk directly to the parents, nor encourage your child to fight back.
6. Document what your child says about the alleged abuse. Also document the following: a) the steps you have taken; b) the responses of the people who have promised to help to stop the abuse; c) the intervention/action plan; d) any continued abuse.
To learn more check out these articles:
Ten Actions to Eliminate Bullying
Government warns schools that bullying can violate civil rights laws
Be action-oriented in protecting your child.