Bullying: A parents’ resource guide

From time to time, we here at the Kitsap Sun get calls from parents concerned about bullying at their children’s school. On Sunday, we’ll run the first of a two-part series on bullying in schools. Day one is focused on how parents can best advocate for their children when bullying happens. On Tuesday (our regular Education Spotlight day), we will follow up with a look at why middle schools are often a hot bed of conflict waiting to happen.

Meanwhile, here are the nuts and bolts of student rights, school responsibilities and what parents should know about helping their student deal with bullying at school.

This information comes from the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. OSPI does not have authority to enforce local rules except in cases involving sexual discrimination, special education disputes and complaints of misconduct against a school district employee.

Each school district is required by RCW 28A.300.285 to have a policy that prohibits the harassment, intimidation, or bullying of any student. Schools must share this policy with parents or guardians, students, volunteers, and school employees. Districts post policies and procedures on their website and in parent handbooks.

How do I report suspected bullying?
1. Contact your child’s school (or transportation department if the incident happens on the bus). Fill out an incident form, which should be available at the school or on the district’s website. The school is required to conduct an investigation.
2. Anyone — students, parents, staff — can report suspected bullying. Students may submit the report asking for confidentiality, meaning the staff will not disclose the name of the reporting student to the accused student. Anonymous reports also are accepted. Staff cannot issue disciplinary consequences for anonymous reports, but they may alert staff to an existing problem.
3. If the bullying act was particularly vicious and the bully seriously injured your child or caused significant harm to your child’s property, the bully may be guilty of malicious harassment. Contact the police if you suspect malicious harassment. In some cases, the schools will make a police report on your child’s behalf.
4. If you feel the school has not adequately addressed the issues, file a written complaint with the district’s compliance officer, who is an administrator appointed by OSPI to over see discipline. Next up the chain of command would be the superintendent.
5. If you still feel that district has not adequately addressed the issues, you may file a complaint with a school board member. Most school boards do not permit discussion of individual discipline cases during public meetings.
6. If you still feel that your concerns have not been addressed, you may contact your Educational Service District Superintendent. Kitsap County is served by Olympic Educational Service District 114, (360) 479-0993.
7. For further help and guidance, contact one of the agencies listed below.

Washington State Human Rights Commission
Addresses bullying based on race, color, creed, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, perceived sexual orientation, gender expression, sensory, mental, or physical disability). The Human Rights Commission has staff throughout the state who able to meet with you and investigate the bullying complaint.

Washington State Office of the Education Ombudsman
Helps with parent-school conflicts with regionally sited investigators: (866) 297-2597.

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights
Addresses complaints based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability and age and has a regional office in Seattle: (206) 607-1600.

The Safe Schools Coalition
Addresses homophobia and harassment in school based on real or perceived sexual orientation: (877) 723-3723.

Washington State Parent-Teacher Association (PTA)
Has regional offices, and the national PTA provides guidance on bullying.

Community Relations Service
An arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, provides conciliation services to help prevent and resolve racial and ethnic conflict. Contact Sandra Blair, Conciliation Specialist, Northwest Regional Office: (206) 220-6704.

Source: Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Safety Center, http://www.k12.wa.us/SafetyCenter/BullyingHarassment/FactSheet.aspx

More resources for parents
Committee for Children, parents guide to support children in reporting bullying

Committee for Children, parents guide to cyberbullying

Stop Bullying, federal public service site

Source: Bremerton School District, http://www.bremertonschools.org

Chris Henry, Kitsap Sun education reporter

2 thoughts on “Bullying: A parents’ resource guide

  1. What if the person doing the bullying is an adult(s)? Do the studies and websites you’ve linked address that?

    There seems to be a mistaken assumption that bullying is a student against student problem. In my experience, the students are pretty good to one another. It’s the adults, at least in this community, who find bullying an effective tool against usurpers.

  2. Many years ago, when my child was being constantly bullied the staff were pretty supportive.. once suspending a few students for a really bad incident in an all class meeting.

    However, the bulling did not stop. So I worked with my child in true “role playing” to help him learn how to stand up for himself and learn to be assertive. For example, his father or I would “play” being the bully. We taught him how to phrase language, “I won’t allow you to continue to try to hurt me… I am getting my parents, school officials, and my friends to stand up against you. You will be really sorry you bullied me.. You are going to be in real trouble for doing this.. Stop bulling me, I won’t put up with it, etc.”

    Since this of course happened in middle school, the fifth and sixth grade, I knew he needed to be able to take back some control of the situation as even some real punishment didn’t do much to help him. At this point in his life, he needed to feel confident. We talked about middle school and how the changes in his body, also were happening in everyone’s head. I don’t know of anyone who loved middle school, whether they were popular or not. He would get through it, but he needed to learn how to be assertive and take care of some of this himself. It worked quite well and after a few days, they left him alone.

    Finally, at the end of the fifth grade, we got a questionnaire from the school asking if we had any particular preferences for our child. I responded that I did not want 3 students to be with him in his core class. The next year, there he was with 5 of the worst students. We met with the principle who said they never changed a class just because certain friends were there. We had to do some real arguing with him over this since it wasn’t asking if he could be with his “best friends”. Finally, we had to say that if they left him there, we would take him out of the school, and put him in a private school. We would then write letters to the editor about this and file a law suit to get the district to pay for moving him. That did it. They put him in a different class and he met new friends and had a great year.

    I emailed the principle at the end of the year, “Thanking” him for this and pointing out that the school should honor these types of requests. My son had a terrific year and his new friends were great. He responded saying that this was a first for him, me emailing him to thank him and he was changing the policy about parents requesting that their child not be put with all of the others that bullied him.

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