Bullying Info and Facts
Defining Bullying BehaviorWhat is bullying? At first glance, many people might think this behavior is easy to define. Their first image of bullying might be of a physically intimidating boy beating up a smaller classmate. While that can still be considered bullying today, parents need to know that bullying behaviors can be much more complex and varied than that typical stereotype. For example, harmful bullying can also occur quietly and covertly, through gossip or on the Internet, causing emotional damage. Let’s consider a few definitions of bullying.
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.
Defining “Harassment” Including Harassment based on DisabilityThe Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have stated that bullying may also be considered harassment when it is based on a student’s race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or religion.
Harassing behaviors may include:
- Unwelcome conduct such as: Verbal abuse, such as name-calling, epithets, slurs
- Graphic or written statements
- Physical assault
- Other conduct that may be physically threatening, harmful, or humiliating
Know the LawsMany states have laws that address bullying. The content of each law varies considerably. This interactive map from the Olweus* website contains information on each state’s bullying and harassment laws:
*Dan Olweus, a native of Norway, is considered a pioneer in bullying research and has implemented a model of his bullying prevention program in the United States
Three Steps to Take If Your Child is Being Targeted by Bullying at SchoolIt is important that parents approach this situation in a calm manner and that parents keep records of facts in the situation. It is helpful if parents and school staff work together to resolve the issue. Parents can use the following steps to resolve the issue.
I. Work With Your ChildThank 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?
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 staff (teacher, principal, other staff).
Go to step two if needed.
II. Work With The SchoolMeet with your child’s teacher:
- Discuss what is happening to your child using information from Step One.
- Ask what can be done so your child feels safe at school.
Make an appointment to meet with the principal to discuss the bullying situation:
- Share information from Step One.
- Mention your work with your child regarding the situation.
- 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 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 AdministrationWrite a letter or send an email to 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.
*Email is an acceptable way of contacting persons.