National Bullying Prevention Month is recognized in communities across the United States, with hundreds of schools and organizations signing on as partners. Bullying was historically viewed “a childhood rite of passage” and many believed that bullying “made kids tougher”, when the reality is that bullying has devastating effects such as school avoidance, loss of self-esteem, increased anxiety, and depression. PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center created an anti-bullying campaign in 2006 with a one-week event, which has now evolved into a month-long effort in October that encourages everyone to take an active role in the bullying prevention movement.
The End of Bullying Begins with Me: that’s the message during PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Month this year. It’s a time when communities can unite nationwide to raise awareness of bullying prevention through events, activities, outreach, and education. Resources from PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center make it easy to take action.
According to Katie Couric’s show Katie, 160,000 kids stayed home from school on October 2, 2012. Not because they were sick or forgot to do their homework, but because they were afraid of being harassed by a bully. One in every four kids get bullied, which adds up to 13 million kids a year. Although definitions of bullying vary, most agree that an act is defined as bullying when:
- The behavior hurts or harms another person physically or emotionally. Bullying can be very overt, such as fighting, hitting or name calling, or it can be covert, such as gossiping or leaving someone out on purpose.
- It is intentional, meaning the act is done willfully, knowingly and with deliberation.
- The targets have difficulty stopping the behavior directed at them and struggle to defend themselves.
Bullying can be circumstantial or chronic. It might be the result of a situation, such as being the new student at school, or it might be behavior that has been directed at the individual for a long period of time. PACER suggests these three steps to take if your child is being targeted by bullying at school:
I. Work With Your Child
Thank your child for telling you. Tell your child that the bullying is not his or her fault. Talk with your child about the specifics of the situation and ask:
- Who is doing the bullying?
- What happened? Was it
- Verbal bullying?
- Physical bullying?
- Cyberbullying? (Meet directly with the principal if this is the case.)
- What days and times were you bullied?
- Where did the bullying take place?
Also find out how your child responded to the bullying and if other children or adults might have observed the bullying. Does your child know the names of these people? Keep a written record of this information. Practice possible ways for your child to respond to bullying. PACER offers a “Student Action Plan” that walk through potential action steps. Tell a school faculty member (teacher, principal, other staff). Go to step two if needed.
II. Work With The School
Meet with your child’s teacher: Discuss what is happening to your child using information from Step One and ask what can be done so your child feels safe at school. Keep a written record of what happened at this meeting, including names and dates.
Make an appointment to meet with the principal to discuss the bullying situation: Share information from Step One and mention your work with your child regarding the situation.
Share the outcome of your meeting with the teacher.
- Mention how the situation is impacting your child
- Does not want to come to school o Is fearful he or she will be hurt
- Complains of stomach aches, headaches, etc.
- Has other new behavior as a result of bullying
Ask if school has a written policy on bullying and harassment. If so, ask for a written copy. Ask what the school can do to keep your child safe at school, on school bus, etc. Go to step three if needed.
III. Work With District Administration
Write a letter or send an email to the district superintendent requesting a meeting to discuss the situation. Include name of child, age, grade, school, your address and phone number, background information of the bullying situation and how you have tried to resolve it.
This letter should be as brief and factual as possible. Include the times you are available for this meeting. Send copies of this letter to the principal, special education director (if child is receiving special education) and chair of the school board. Be sure to keep a copy for yourself.
Prepare for this meeting by organizing the information you have kept and the questions you want to ask. Remember to ask what can be done to keep your child safe in school so he/she can learn. Decide if you want to take someone with you. Clarify their role (e.g., take notes, provide support, contribute information about your child). Be sure to keep a written record of this meeting, including who was present, what was discussed and any decisions that were made.
If after taking these three steps, the bullying issue has not been resolved, you may wish to contact a parent center or advocacy organization for assistance.