What parents can do to deal with child bullying and school bullying
For answers to frequently asked questions about workplace bullying and adult bullying click here
My child is being bullied and I don't know what to do
Read this section of the web site and then look at the links page for details of organisations which provide information about dealing with child bullying and school bullying. Bullying OnLine has lots of practical advice for pupils and parents, and Kidscape has excellent leaflets and books. The last chapter of the book Bullycide: death at playtime brings together advice on dealing with bullying from leading experts.
Where can I find good resource material on identifying and dealing with child and school bullying?
Read this section of the web site and then look at the links page for details of organisations which provide information about dealing with child bullying and school bullying. The last chapter of Bullycide: death at playtime brings together the best advice for children, parents and teacher on identifying and dealing with bullying.
How can I tell whether bullying is rife in a school?
Look for unusually high levels of: staff turnover, sickness absence, supply staff, stress breakdown, suicides and attempted suicides amongst staff, suicides and attempted suicides amongst pupils, ill-health retirements, early retirements, grievances started, uses of disciplinary procedures, suspensions of staff, dismissals of staff, number of times the employer is involved in employment tribunals or legal action against employees, poor attendance record of pupils, pupil exclusions, damage to school property including graffiti. And ask the experts: views of the pupils, especially past pupils. Ask to see the anti-bullying policy: if it's got dust on it, it's not a good sign. Ask the head how s/he policies the policy and how s/he measures its effectiveness. The best indicator is when the head teacher states "We don't have bullying here". It is in those school that parade this image that you are most likely to find high levels of bullying.
My child is bullied on the way to and from school but the school say it's not their problem
Some schools have a policy that the safety of pupils (especially in relation to assault, harassment and bullying) is the school's responsibility until the child reaches home. Unfortunately not all schools are this enlightened or motivated. In some cases local education authorities have argued successfully in court that they are not responsible for what happens outside the school gates. However,
1) children have a legal obligation to attend school, therefore is it not a choice, and local education authorities will prosecute children and parents for non-attendance;
2) if the bullying takes place on the way to or from school the school has a moral and ethical obligation for duty of care if its pupils are attacked by fellow pupils or pupils from neighbouring schools;
3) children are obliged to wear school uniform throughout the day including the journey to and from school; if the school insists on school uniform, and especially if the bullies are wearing school uniform, then the school must accept responsibility for the actions of pupils they force to wear school uniform.
It is morally and ethically unacceptable for a school to be able to take disciplinary and legal action against a child and the child's parents for non-attendance and against the child for not wearing the "correct" uniform but simultaneously to be able to abdicate and deny responsibility for the safety of the child whilst the child is meeting that disciplinary and legal imposition.
My child has been so badly bullied and for so long that she's now been labelled as having school phobia. What can I do?
Focus exclusively on the cause of your daughter sensibly not wishing to place herself in an unsafe situation. Point out that panic attacks are often wrongly diagnosed as "school phobia" but in reality are a symptom of psychiatric injury of the type caused by prolonged bullying. It's well-recognised that long-term bullying causes PTSD. Demand in a calm professional manner and in writing an undertaking from the school that they will fulfil their Duty of Care and that they will deal effectively
with the bullies. Ask to be kept informed of actions and progress on a weekly basis, and if things get worse, on a daily basis. Make notes of all meetings and keep copies of all correspondence. See the Kidscape and Bullying Online web sites and get their views and advice.
My child was bullied as school for months and finally fought back, now he is being punished for standing up for himself
A standard response of adults who are failing in their duty of care is "why don't you stand up for yourself?" However, weak, inadequate and poorly-trained adults reveal their inadequacy when a target of bullying does stand up for themselves. Point out politely but assertively to the teacher who is accusing your child, "My child was bullied for months which is a breach of the school's duty of care as a consequence of which my child was forced to take action him/herself. This is a situation that no child should ever be placed in. When bullies receive a taste of their own medicine they immediately feign victimhood in a manner which is convincing enough for some people to be fooled. I now ask you to cease victimising my child immediately and instead deal with the bullies." Repeat as often as required.
The school my child attends is always dismissing and trivialising bullying
Bullying at school comprises harassment, assault, sexual assault, grievous bodily harm, manslaughter, racism, homophobia, theft, extortion and more, all of which are criminal behaviours. Record every incident, and the names of the child or children responsible. Every time an injury is caused, ensure it is recorded in the school's accident book. If the school fails to deal with the bullying, report every incident which involves injury or criminal action to the police. Expect the police to not be interested, but persist politely and professionally. Every time there's an incident update your records and provide the head teacher and board of governors with an updated copy. Expect the school and LEA to resort to denial followed by intimidation and threat - this is the response of people who understand their guilt but who lack the maturity and the competencies to fulfil the legal obligations of their position. Record every response.
If my child's school says they've ticked all the boxes on their anti-bullying policy why does the bullying continue?
When a school says "We've ticked all the boxes" they are really saying "We've discharged our legal obligation by abdicating our personal responsibility to a piece of paper which is now safely filed away and which, if you take legal action, we will wave in court to successfully evade accountability".
The school my child attends doesn't want to know
See Bullying Online for practical advice.
Why don't teachers want to deal with bullying?
There's little in teacher training that prepares teachers to deal with bullying. Schools do not have training budgets to train staff to deal with bullying. Whilst some teachers are able to deal with bullying, many are not. Teachers are the largest group of callers to my UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line and in almost every case the bully is the head teacher with the behaviour profile of a serial bully. When there's a bully on the staff, the good teachers (the majority) become disempowered and disenfranchised and cannot, despite their best efforts, deal with bullying. If bullying is rife in the staff room it's likely to be rife in the playground, and vice-versa. [An article in the TES]
Schools have a duty of care, don't they?
Yes, but courts in the UK have repeatedly failed to make a legal imposition to force schools to accept their duty of care. If courts are going to support schools, governing bodies and local education authorities who fail in their duty of care then the courts are saying that bullying is acceptable. [Example]
My child's school has an anti-bullying policy but bullying is rife and the school refuses to do anything. Why is this?
A policy is only words on paper. It is the commitment of the head teacher, or person at the top, which makes a policy work. More specifically, it is the EQ (level of emotional intelligence) of the head teacher which determines the ethos of the school. If the commitment is there verbally but is not backed up by action, then the policy remains just words on paper. Some head teachers lack interpersonal skills and do not have a sufficiently high level of emotional intelligence to be able to deal with conflict, other than to victimise anyone reporting the conflict.
I thought every school had to have an anti-bullying policy which would put a stop to bullying. Am I mistaken?
In 1999 the education secretary David Blunkett imposed a legal requirement on schools in the UK to have an anti-bullying policy. Every school in the country then had to redirect scarce resources to re-inventing the wheel. The result is that those schools who were dealing with bullying continue to deal with bullying whilst those schools who were not dealing with bullying now have a piece of paper they can wave in court to abdicate and deny responsibility - which some have. Mr Blunkett h
had no substantive data to measure levels of bullying before his imposition, and he has acquired no substantive data since; therefore he has been unable to measure the effectiveness of his policy. All surveys and research suggest that since 1999 bullying has at best remained at the same levels, and at worst has got worse.
My son has been bullied for a long time and now I've taken it up with the school they say he's brought it on himself.
Abdication and denial of responsibility are hallmarks of bullying. Read Bully OnLine and Bullying Online and then take legal advice.
My daughter's school trumpet their no-blame approach but it's made things worse
In schools where there is a genuine anti-bullying ethos, strategies like no-blame and circle time can bring about positive results, especially if the bullying is minimal. In schools where bullying is rife but denied, no-blame approaches and circle time are likely to be conducted by staff who are either untrained, lacking in competence or disempowered and disenfranchised. No-blame and circle time are unlikely to have any effect where the bullying is carried out by a child or children with antisocial or disordered personalities. Many people who promote a no-blame approach don't understand that child bullies are adept at manipulating the perceptions of naive or inexperienced adults. Bullies are skilled and experienced at evading accountability; the no-blame approach allows bullies to give the appearance of compliance for the purpose of evading accountability, but at the same time continuing to threaten, intimidate and bully their victims. Bullying at school comprises harassment, assault, sexual assault, grievous bodily harm, manslaughter, racism, homophobia, theft, extortion and more, all of which are criminal behaviours. Bullying is also a form of psychological and emotional rape because of its intrusive and violational nature; no reasonable person would demand that a rapist and his victim sit in a room and work it out together, would they? [More from Kidscape]
The head of my children's secondary school seems to be the biggest bully in the school. How did he get the job?
This is an excellent question. Ask the head and the LEA for an answer in writing, especially if the head has a history of conflict with staff and failure to fulfil duty of care. Also ask the head and the chief education officer for details of their membership of any fraternal organisations; if you are met with evasiveness, intimidation or threats, you have your answer.
A child at a local school has committed suicide because of bullying and now everyone is claiming it had nothing to do with bullying. Why is this?
The probability that bullying was the cause of death by suicide is proportional to
a) the haste and vehemence of denials by persons in positions of authority that bullying was a causative factor
b) the insensitivity to the dead child and the bereaved family in respect of claims that bullying was not a factor
c) the extent of campaigns to vilify the dead child, the bereaved and grieving family and anyone who supported or was friends with the child who has committed suicide
d) the levels of abdication and denial of responsibility by those responsible for running and governing the school
e) the amounts of council tax payers money being allocated to defend legal actions for breach of duty of care
Are there any schools which deal properly with bullying?
Yes. Click here for one example.
Details of people, web sites and organisations who can provide information, advice and support are on the links page.
More questions about school bullying and child bullying are answered on myths and misperceptions page.
For answers to frequently asked questions about workplace bullying and adult bullying click here