by Dr. Julie McDaniel, Consultant, Student Safety and Well-Being Advanced Certified Trauma Practitioner and Trainer, Oakland Schools
PARENTS AND SCHOOLS working together provide the united front necessary to reduce bullying. Both educators and parents have powerful online resources available to them; however, parents may not be aware of these resources or know how to access them.
The US Department of Education site, stopbullying.gov, provides a wealth of information for awareness, prevention, and intervention. While many sites provide toolkits and action plans, the stopbullying.gov site starts at awareness and lists possible warning signs that children are being bullied. The following are some warning signs from a very comprehensive list:
- Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
- Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
- Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
- Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
- Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
Another valuable online resource is the site for the National PTA‘s program Connect for Respect (C4R) that promotes proactive and responsive parental involvement in schools. The C4R is a research-based approach in building strong relationships in schools. These strong relationships are the building blocks in safe and supportive learning environments where bullying cannot flourish. Again, parents and educators are working together to keep our children safe and healthy.
Finally, the National Education Association has tools specifically for parents and educators. The ABC’s of Bullying reminds us that bullying can occur anywhere. The article For Parents: If a Child Complains of Being Bullied provides warning signs and early steps for parents to take before the school is involved. It suggests questions to ask to confirm suspicion of bullying.
Educators are starting to grasp the critical importance of the caring relationship between every student and at least one adult in school. We also understand that healthy and supportive relationships are at the core of a strong and caring learning environment. Most importantly, we know that bullying cannot flourish in those positive, supportive schools.
Having the parents as partners in this effort is vital to its success.
As the US Department of Education states, “Parents play critical roles in addressing and preventing bullying.” Parents’ concern, influence and responsibility are unparalleled. Once parents are fully AWARE of the bullying problem, the next step is ACTION.
Stan Davis, founder of the Stop Bullying Now, ith Charisse Nixon, Professor at Penn State Behrend, compiled their experience with the voices of 13.000 students in Youth Voice Project: Student Insight into Bullying and Peer Mistreatment. They provide valuable advice for parents who believe their child is being bullied or mistreated. The first important step is to assess the severity of the mistreatment.
1) If the behavior is MILD and has little impact on the well-being of the child, parents should advise their child to ignore the behavior, stay away from the person mistreating them, and/or ask the person to stop.
2) If the behavior continues or is MODERATELY SEVERE, parents should begin documenting the mistreatment with dates and other details. They should brainstorm together possible solutions after identifying the strategies the child has used to that point. Parents may then approach the school, making contact with the teacher first and then the principal. The meetings should be focused on the documented mistreatment and existing school policy/response to bullying.
3) If the behavior is SEVERE, parents may need to approach officials with documentation of the events and the impact as a first step of action. They should work with school officials in matters of school-based bullying and outside officials, perhaps law enforcement, with bullying that occurs in the community. If the child continues to show signs of trauma, including sleeplessness and anxiety, a physician or mental health professional will be of great assistance.
KEEP READING! Dr. Julie McDaniel will be posting regularly throughout October on anti-bullying measures.