Schools need to be caring, responsible and sensitive to the needs of vulnerable students. If they have a firm policy of mutual respect, commitment and consistent programmes, there is less likelihood of institutionalised bullying (see Chapter 3). Some schools take bullying seriously: they acknowledge its toxic impact on morale, enrolments, staff, students, parents and the local community. Their actions indicate their constant focus on reducing it. Many schools pay lip-service to their policies but their actions are minimal. Hopefully, law suits, media attention, angry parents and financial difficulties will force insensitive or irresponsible schools to acknowledge their duty of care and respect everyone.
Dealing with bullying is a collaborative process. You can't expect a traumatised child to confront bullies, a bully to behave well in a bullying culture, or the school to function alone. Schools need to respect parents' rights to be involved, and parents need to understand the school's role and limitations.
• Find the designated person at school who is supportive, communicates regularly and takes action, e.g. your child's teacher, counsellor, coordinator or principal.
• Make an appointment, and arrange simple, regular communication, e.g. phone, email, face-to-face meetings.
• Try to organise at least one meeting at school with your partner. If separated, either meet the teacher together or separately.
• Bring along your Bullying Diary, record the discussion and intended action. Plot any constructive or negative changes.
• Obtain copies of the school bullying policy and programmes, and discipline and welfare policies.
• Compare the general steps taken by the school to reduce bullying and the specific steps they will take to protect your child.
• Provide them with relevant background material about your child and family, provided confidentiality is respected and the information won't be used against you or your child.
• Keep them informed of any setbacks or improvements.
• If nothing is working and the school can't help, consult a doctor, a psychologist or a professional health or welfare agency that can liaise with the school.
• If there is no change after a term, consider other options, e.g. changing classes or schools.
• Before class lists are organised for the next grade, consult your child and the school about the wisdom of placing your child in another class with a former bully.
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