This article has been reposted from Hogan Injury, as part of our new and exciting sharing partnership:
The terms “bully” and “bullying” have been getting more attention recently, but do we know what the words “bully” and “bullying” really mean? Bullying is different from normal teasing and/or disagreement between children. According to the American Psychological Association, bullying is a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort. Bullying can take the form of physical contact, words or more subtle actions. The bullied individual typically has trouble defending him or herself and does nothing to “cause” the bullying.
What can you do as a parent if you suspect that your child is being bullied? First, you have to observe your child. Not all children are vocal about what happens to them at school. There are signs that you can watch out for if your child is being bullied. Hesitation to go to school can be a very big indicator that your child is being bullied. Increased anxiety, crying, and nightmares, or decreased appetite can be indicators as well.
If you discover that your child is being bullied, take time to talk to him to let him know that you care. Try to tell your child that it’s best not to fight back, instead teach him techniques on how to ignore bullies or figure out assertive ways to cope with bullying. Help your child identify friends and adults who can help him if he is worried about getting bullied again. Start documenting the bullying as well, take note of all the scenarios where your child is being bullied.
Next step is to talk to the school where the bullying is taking place. Talk to your child’s teacher about the situation and ask for his help in stopping the bullying. Do this in a calm manner, your child’s teacher may not be aware of the situation so there’s no need for you to be aggressive when you talk to him. Give your child’s teacher the details of the bullying and ask him to intervene whenever the situation arises. You can also talk to your child’s school friends to make sure that your child has a good support system of kids and adults.
If the bullying continues even after you’ve talked to your child’s teacher, the next step is to talk to the school principal to address the issue. Most schools have some sort of anti-bullying policies that are patterned after state laws that prevent student harassment in schools. Review the school policy about bullying and tell the principal about the circumstances. After talking to the principal, give it 2 weeks and follow-up with your child about the situation. If your child is still being bullied, take the next step and talk to the school district superintendent. Write them a letter and wait for a reply. Keep these letters as you may be able to use them if the bullying still doesn’t stop and the school has done nothing to stop it.
If after going through all these steps and the bullying still has not stopped, that is the time to call an attorney. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be filing a lawsuit against the school or the bully; instead, a lawyer may be able to assess the strength of your legal claim and help you look for other options to pursue. Provide your lawyer with all the documentation that you have, including the school policy against harassment and the letter you’ve written to the school district superintendent and their reply, and he will be able to guide you on the next steps that you can take.