SAN DIEGO, September 15, 2011—If you learned your child was the victim of a bully, you’d naturally be angry.
At the least, you would want to immediately and forcefully demand that someone be held accountable. But if your complaint process is not handled with care, you may not solve the problem. You may make it worse.
Children worry that if parents intervene in their problems, the bullying will get worse. Your child could be absolutely right. If you blow it and you are ineffective with your complaint, the bully and his or her family might feel even more empowered to carry on.
You need to be smart and systematic about putting together a game plan to fight bullying.
Get the story of the bullying situation as accurately as possible from your child. Listen. Reassure your child he or she has done the right thing coming to you, and that you will be on their side. Be their “lawyer.” You’ve got to have honest cooperation so don’t deflect your anger, be judgmental or frustrated. This is the time to suck it up and put on your big parent panties.
Try your best to control your natural anger over the bullying. Avoid making calls or putting anything in writing including e-mail when you are angry. This will not help resolve the problem. Adults including administrators, teachers, and other parents will be more willing to help if you approach them diplomatically.
If adults in authority have no knowledge your child is being bullied, it is fair to give them a reasonable amount of time to work out minor problems. Perhaps a few days, perhaps a week. This is no excuse to wuss out and avoid confrontation.
Play lawyer and put EVERYTHING in writing. Documentation is critical. Get dates, times, locations and names of events, and everyone you talk with. Write down anything that you might refer to later, especially comments made by adults in authority such as teachers, staff, or administrators. Tape record statements, type them up and have witnesses sign them. Take photos of any injuries or damages.
In some cases, bullying requires immediate action by law enforcement. If there is a physical or a sexual assault, call police immediately. School officials are not police officers. However, they are subject to lawsuits if they fail to report violence when they become aware of it.
Do not permit anyone try to blame the victim for the bullying. Bullies act like they do because they can get away with it. The adults are responsible for letting it continue. When adults choose to do something proactive about fighting back, bullying will stop. It may not be easy, but it must be done.
When should you consider calling an attorney about a bullying situation? Give school authorities or other responsible parties a chance to resolve the situation. But if you are dissatisfied with the response, or there are serious delays, then it is time to consult an experienced Family Law Attorney immediately to discuss the best options to remedy the situation for your child and all who may have been victimized.
Be realistic about what school officials can do. They have a ton of problems bigger than your child’s bullying, like budget cuts and layoffs. No one has your child’s best interests at heart the way you do as a parent. Hold authorities accountable for taking responsibility, backed up by strong documented evidence. Be sure you have requested help through the proper channels first.
If your child does not get relief, time to turn to the legal system. You may be preventing other children from being bullied in the future.
Myra Chack Fleischer serves as Lead Counsel for Fleischer & Ravreby in Carlsbad, California with a focus on divorce, property, custody and support, settlement agreements, mediation, asset division and family law appeals. Read more Legally Speaking in Communities Digital News. Follow Myra on Twitter: @LawyerMyra.
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