Every school has different rules and regulations about how they address the bullying epidemic. Some schools take a more proactive approach while others are more reactive to the issue of bullying. It is important that we do not prejudge a school regarding their approach to bullying until we know all the facts.
Parents can take action to encourage the schools their children attend do what is needed to prevent bullying and then address it when it happens.
You can even begin the conversation before your child attends a new school, whether it is a private or public school in your local area. The first thing to do is to prepare ahead of time and ask to have a meeting with the principal to learn more about their bullying culture. Once a meeting has been set-up with the principal of the school, you can ask to see their policy on bullying. If there is not an actual policy on bullying, you can ask about a policy on harassment.
Look closely at the bullying or harassment policy to see how the school would expect to handle any bullying problems that may arise at the school. You want to make sure that they have a proactive plan to keep children safe and that they have clear responses to bullying situations. If they do not have a policy or the policy is unclear, ask them to clarify how they would respond to bullying more specifically. For instance, if your child has had previous issues with bullying and you feel comfortable to share, then use his or her experiences as an example. When your child has been bullied, you want to make sure that his or her new school is prepared to keep your child safe.
Many schools also have programs that teach bully prevention. A wonderful example of a bully prevention program is Stand for the Silent, led by Kirk Smalley, a father who lost his son to bullying. Kirk comes into the school to talk to kids and educators about bullying, sharing his experiences and how he thinks each individual can make a difference to end bullying. It is a powerful 90-minute assembly that really addresses the issues with all grade levels. This program impacts each attendee emotionally, working to shift the culture at the school towards kids “standing for the silent” children who might be bullied. This program opens the conversation to talk about how to prevent bullying and shines a light on bullying that has already occurred. These types of programs are important to help bring the focus to this scary and dangerous epidemic. If there is not a Bully Prevention program in the school like Stand for the Silent, ask the school if there are plans to have a program in the school. If the school states there may be budgetary issues, I would ask about the PTA. There are times that a local PTA may be able to do effective fundraising to help with providing money to the school. Bully prevention programs are a necessary first step to help stop bullying.
I think in this day and age, with the epidemic of bullying being so prevalent, it is important for you, as a parent, to work with the school on better ways to support the community and children regarding bullying. The more knowledge parents have the more power they have to help make change happen.
Are you worried that your child is being relationally bullied? Please don’t hesitate to reach out to Danielle Matthew, LMFT, founder of The Empowerment Space: firstname.lastname@example.org or 818-267-4282.