Bully Vaccine Toolkit Lesson 7 – Getting Help

This entry is part 7 of 9 in the series The Bully Vaccine Toolkit

  Getting Help

Happy Boy who is free of bullyingWhen it comes to dealing with a bullying situation, know that you aren’t alone. Even if you have tried to get the school to help you in the past and it didn’t work, that doesn’t mean that the school doesn’t care or won’t help you. It is just nearly impossible for them to get bullying to stop once it is established.

They key to being successful is being realistic. Often when parents first report problems they expect the school to magically make the problem disappear. It doesn’t work that way. You can’t just report something and have it stop. It takes time and a concerted effort by not just the school, but also by your child over a period of time to get a bullying situation under control. As frustrated as you may be, you need to give them an opportunity to help you properly now that your expectations are more realistic.

This unit includes advice and tactics you can use to help mobilize the resources of the school and community to help your child.

Approaching the school

Once you have a better idea of what is happening and you have a bullying log in place and you and your child have some idea of what your ideal action plans look like, it is a good idea to schedule a meeting at the school to discuss the situation and what can be done.

The mistake most parents make when they talk to the school is not being specific enough. They simply report that their child is being bullied. The school promises to look into it and take appropriate action, which they generally do. And then nothing changes. The reason nothing changes is because there is only so much the school can do.

Bullying is a chronic problem. Schools are best equipped to deal with one off problems. In order to properly mobilize the school to help you, you need to recognize that you and your child will have to be consistent and persistent to overcome the inertia of an administration, that even with the best of intentions has rules and procedures they have to follow.

To make this work your child needs to take responsibility to report consistently so that you and the school have actionable information to act upon. Bullying won’t stop because the bully receives one consequence. It will stop once the bully realizes that they aren’t getting away with it anymore and the negative consequences are not worth the reward, which has effectively been eliminated.

Be Specific!

You need to be specific about what situations your child is facing and what exactly you expect them to do to support your child. Provide the school with a copy of your bullying logs. Most school officials have no clue how bad or how chronic or persistent the harassment is. A bullying log is documentation they will not be able to ignore or dismiss out of hand.

The school also needs to know what your child’s plan is in terms of what they plan to do when they are hassled so that the school is ready for them to report and can support them and help them succeed.

Expect some push back. Once your child starts reporting consistently, the person they report to may try to put pressure on your child to stop reporting. This isn’t because they don’t care. They just aren’t used to having a child report EVERY incident and it will catch them off guard. It is a fairly normal response to try and get rid of the problem by eliminating the reporting. Make sure your child continues. It is only when you force the school to pay attention that they will take action. This is a squeaky wheel gets the grease principle.

For instance, if the problem is on the school bus, and your child is reporting 2 or 3 or more incidences on every trip (which is entirely possible if the bullying is chronic and bad), consistent reporting will result in one of several actions. Either the bully will give up, the school will ban the bully from the bus or, the school will take action to make sure your child is protected from the bully.

What do you want the school to do?

When you approach the school you need to be specific about what help you expect them to provide. Can they make sure an extra teacher is on the playground? If the hallways are problematic, can they station someone there to monitor your child? Be flexible and open to their suggestions, but don’t accept anything less than their full support for your child.

Who to communicate with?

Who exactly should be your contact as you and the school work together to help your child? This isn’t always obvious and there may be multiple people you need to keep in touch with. Problems on the bus are the responsibility of the transportation department, however, banning a problem child from the bus might be the decision of the principal or the superintendent.

Who exactly should your child report problems to? What is that person’s phone number so that you can follow up with them when your child reports back to you what happened each day. Can you call them anytime? What are the procedures for handling bullying complaints? What is the established disciplinary procedure so that you and your child know what to expect.

How often will you meet to discuss the changing needs of your child’s situation as the bully(s) change their behavior as part of their blow out process? The goal is to have everyone on the same page and to have a realistic idea of what can be accomplished.

It is also a good idea to contact the school districts safety person. Most school districts have a staff member dedicated to school safety. Find out who this person is and call them to discuss your situation. Get them involved to help you and the school deal with this situation. Schools may not have the staff needed to help you as effectively as you would like. By getting the school district staff involved, you can often bring extra resources to the school to help. Keep in touch and keep them updated as to your situation as it progresses. If the school is unhelpful, often getting the district involved is enough to mobilize the resources needed to help your child.

Does your school have a school counselor? If so, can they help your child. Counselors are highly trained individuals. They should all be familiar with operant conditioning. Additionally, they may be able to teach your child ways to cope with their stress, overcome their fears, learn how to make friends and more. Take advantage of their help. If your child is coping with chronic bullying, they will need the assistance and support of the school counselor, who can also advocate on your child’s behalf with the school.

If, for some reason, the school and the school district refuse to help you, which would be really unusual, you may need to seek legal help. In this case, you will want to know what state laws are applicable and either hire a lawyer to help or you will need to have a contact at the police or sheriff’s office. Most law enforcement agencies have staff dedicated to juvenile issues. Those are the officers you will want to be in touch with.

To Recap:

Work with the school first, get the name and phone number of a primary contact person who will be your liaison with the school.

Even if the school is supportive, it is a good idea to let the school district’s safety officer know what is going on so that they can provide support to the school and assist you in helping your child. They may also have resources available to you that the school may not. Again, you will want to know the name and the number to keep them informed as the situation develops.

Finally, if all else fails and/or if it is suggested by the school or the school district, you will want to know the name and phone number of an officer assigned to juvenile crimes to assist you if it comes to that.

Coming Up

You may download all the documents contained in this toolkit. There are also additional videos that you might find helpful.

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