Why is it so hard to get the school to make the bullying stop?

October is National Bullying Prevention Month.  The following guest post was written by a mom who is a regular reader of Portrait of an Adoption.  She has been communicating with me privately about the bullying her daughter has suffered, and she is sharing her story to help other families who are having similar struggles.

By Lisa

I have been trying to get the elementary school to put a stop to V being bullied.  It is frustrating.  It feels like ‘them versus us’.  The school does not want parent involvement.  It’s so different from when my middle schooler had an incident --  the middle school counselor involved me and worked with my daughter too.  There was closure and follow up within days.

At the elementary school, all I can get from them is that “they are handling it” and they cannot tell me what they are doing.  They cannot include parents, as parents are not allowed to know what they are doing about the incidents.

I have kept all the emails between the school and myself as well as notes of conversations.  I have done research and read books.  Experts explained that if I am not getting the satisfaction I need from the principal, then I can make a meeting with the assistant superintendent.

But the superintendent’s office says that all of the schools in the county have the same anti-bullying policy, and the principals may interpret them differently.  No one takes accountability.

During the times that the principal has called me, it has been for a conference call (3 versus 1, not fair odds).  During the first conference call, the vice principal told me that V needed to know how to handle this, as this was part of the real world.  There is a difference between learning life lessons and being expected to handle bullying without help.

During the last conference call, the counselor did comment that there were no programs or supports in place for victims.  They asked what I wanted.

I asked for the following: 1) put support and help in place for the children and their parents; 2) teachers to help the children report bullying; 3) encourage teachers to acknowledge bullying (I was told by one teacher that she didn’t want to know because it didn’t happen in her classroom); 4) recommend the school to talk to the paraprofessionals and teachers about reporting incidents; and 5) allow my daughter and other children to feel safe at school.

The principal did say that they would be addressing these issues.  What was wild was that out of the teacher, counselor, lead teacher, vice principal, and bus driver, the only one to successfully nip it in the bud was the bus driver.  I was told that all of the others had training.

The K-5 curriculum coordinator in the superintendent’s office called me.  She had already spoken with the principal.  She asked me to tell her the whole story.  She validated me.  She said that I had taken all of the right steps.  She thanked me for bringing these issues to their attention, because if someone doesn’t tell them, they don’t know to address the problem.

She encouraged me to contact her at anytime and to feel free to let her know of any other incidents.  She took the names of the main instigators and will personally see that they are separated from my daughter.  She agreed that it should have been handled better.  She also said that the school could and should have told me some of the steps they were taking to help put a stop to the bullying.   I told her that I had used Carrie Goldman’s book Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear as part of my research and as a resource to help me put an end to the bullying, to help V and myself.   I needed her to know that I was taking this issue seriously and that I expected a resolution.

It was nice to finally have someone acknowledge what I have done as the right thing to do!  She encouraged me to keep up the good work.  She also said that she wished more parents taught their children conflict management, appropriate responses, and that that their actions have consequences.

I finally feel like I was being listened to and that actions would be taken to improve the school for all students.  The K-5 Curriculum Coordinator said she was going to call the principal back and let her know what we had discussed.

I am thankful that my girls have a safe, loving, and supportive home environment.  We have worked hard to create a space in which the girls feel comfortable confiding in us.  The other saving grace is that my girls were each on a soccer team in which they were liked and appreciated for who they are.  These two areas of their lives – home and soccer -- have helped them to know that they are loved and appreciated.

V has gone from being afraid to return to school, to enjoying school once again.  Finally being in a classroom in which the teacher has an effective anti-bullying policy, is supportive of V, and encourages her, has made a huge difference this year.

As for myself, even now, knowing that I can call the K5 curriculum coordinator and that the girls have great teachers this year, I find myself feeling sad, even at times bitter.  There are still little things going on at the school,  and I grow weary of having to fight so hard to keep my children safe at school.  I am counting down the days until they can go to the middle school, where I know that they will have the support and safety that they deserve, and where I will not have to fight so hard for these essential rights.

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Lisa is a member of the Portrait of an Adoption Community who wants to share her experiences with other parents.

Get your award-winning copy of Carrie's book Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear.

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