What can we do about school bullies?

Three years ago when my daughter was 11 a boy in school began to pick on her. He didn’t hit her, just taunted her. For months she complained to me, her teacher and the school counselor about this boy.

I talked to the teacher who told me she was aware of the problem and was doing her best to keep them apart and keep an eye on him. This did not lessen my daughter’s anguish as this boy called her names, beckoned other children to mock her, follow her around making barking noises and any other type of humiliation he could think up.

One day my daughter had had enough. He passed her in the hallway and barked. My daughter jumped him. Apparently she was quite hysterical and it took two teachers to break them up. This was the first and only fight my daughter was ever in.

She (and the boy) were suspended for a week. Her teacher and guidance counselor defended her, but the principal was admamant. Fighting in school is punishable by a week’s suspension, no exceptions.

My question is: What could have been done to prevent this? What could any of us (me, my daughter, her teacher and the counselor) have done to stop the bully? I could not bring myself to be mad at my daughter. The principal made it clear that she thought my daughter should be punished. I made it clear that I would do no such thing since it seemed to me that we all failed my daughter and not the other way around.

The worst part was that my daughter learned the best way to deal with a bully was to lose your mind and beat the crap out of him, since the boy never bothered her again.

Sadly, in the current system that is the best way to deal with a bully. Often, teachers and counselors just don’t care. When they do care, there usually isn’t anything they can do about it. The bully can just wait until the teacher isn’t there.

Personally, I think even relatively minor bullying should be dealt with harshly and swiftly. Get both sets of parents and the principal/teacher/whatever together and make it clear that such bullying should not happen again. If it does happen again, give the bully some amount of community service time (or maybe just “school service” time, like washing lockers or something) equal to the level of bullying. If it happens again after that, give them more work to do. If it happens after that, kick them out of school for good. That child is directly and chronicly interfering with another child’s learning, and that is wrong.

It sucks about that entire “Zero Tolerance” crap. I had a friend get suspended because he defended himself when he was attacked. :frowning:

Add a light and reliable handgun to the school supply list they send out. If every kid is required to have a gun, bullying will go down.

My husband teaches “mediation” and “bully proofing” in a middle school. I highly recommend this program for schools.

In some schools, bullies who threaten and harass are hauled in under harassment charges. Disciplinary actions are taken and the little thug is ordered, under penalty of worse discipline, to leave the victim alone. If the harassment continues, say, like getting others to harass the victim, they and prior thug can be hauled in and disciplined. Prior thug can face suspension, parent/teacher/counsilor conference. If it still continues, thug can be removed from the school and shipped to another and the parents can be brought to the attention of HRS for failing to control their kid.

Unfortunately, often one of the fastest and more thorough ways to handle a budding thug is to attempt to push your fist into one side and out the other, of his skull.

Even that doesn’t work always. I knew a kid who was a bully, who got his can royally stomped by friends of the victims and still continued, even though he got stomped time and time again. He was eventually shipped to reform school for a few years. They probably stomped his aggressive tendencies out of him there on a regular basis. From what I understand he is now a solid citizen and a preacher.

The unfortunate fact is, good teachers are a minority by Sturgeon’s Law. They cannot be everywhere and keep an eye on everything at once, not by a longshot. And, also by Sturgeon’s Law, I remain convinced most kids aren’t little angels–many of them are vicious little shits.

I think “just ignore them” is a common bit of advice bullied children receive. It’s bad advice; children aren’t equipped to just let inescapable emotional hurts slide off them like water from ducks.

Probably the best way to stop bullies is to teach every child self-confidence, and to stand up to them (note: stand up to them does NOT equal losing your mind and attacking) from the very first. And sometimes violence is, regrettably, the only thing that can get things through certain thicknesses of skull–it’s got a much better chance of being effective, though, if it’s not an out-of-the-blue final-straw-on-camel’s-back situation. Most bullies though will back down before that point is reached–when it’s clear that that point will be reached if they do not.

Unfortunately, with all the vogue for idiotic “zero tolerance” about lately, I foresee a time rapidly approaching when kids aren’t just briefly suspended for self-defense, but literally arrested for it. That’s going to do just absolutely lovely things to the generation that takes full swing for.

Get an attorney. Have them write a warning letter to the school. That should cost you about $50. If you get no relief, sue the school district. I’ve heard of several school districts that settled for millions of bucks for failure to protect kids from harassment.

My School got the pupils to suggest ways to cope with bullying. They came up with an excellent set of guidelines. (It’s about 300 words, but I’ll post it if anyone wants me to).

Can I ask about the original case:

was the Principal aware of the bullying?

why didn’t the teacher and School Counsellor speak to the bully and his parents?

I think bullying is endemic; all we can do is keep trying to deal with it.
Beware the School that tells you they have no problem with bullies!

I’ll echo JillGat - programs like peer mediation, and the ones she mentioned can have a dramatic effect. My son (while in grade school) became part of their first peer mediation program, and kept with it through middle school. it doesn’t prevent everything, but it allows for some nastiness to be sidetracked.

perhaps we were so in tune with the concept since Ben wore glasses since he was four years old. Trust me, in grade school, there aren’t many kids wearing glasses, so he got picked at a lot, and it continued through middle school.

Dealing with a bully is like dealing with illness. We can do a lot more to prevent it than we can to manage it.

This behavior, IMHO, is a reflection of the bully’s parents. These kids learn it from watching their teachers in action.

In case you’re wondering, I was a bully. What did my dad do when he found out? He beat the shit out of me and asked me how I liked it. By and large I stopped bullying kids after that, but it took me years to see the irony of the situation.

My daughter’s school did have peer mediation, although it was a toothless thing since both parties had to agree to attend the sessions. It did work well for the soap opera that grade school can become --the “he said, she said” syndrome-- it was (and I suppose still is) ineffectual for the bullies. “Bully proofing” sounds like a great idea. Is there a template or program outline available to school districts? Who would the PTA have to contact to get this?

Chas, although I was plenty mad at this boy, I draw the line at calling lawyers and actually involving this child in the criminal justice system at the tender age of 11. Perhaps if he had actually hit or physically abused my daughter I may have felt differently.

That was a joke, right Badtzu?
I would love to see that outline glee.

Hiya wring! I sure hope my daughter doesn’t turn to prostitution over this incident. I’m joking*.

(you know, I hope, that although we disagreed there, generally we’re on the same side…)

That was a great thread for me. It taught me to be more precise and explicit in my posts. Not to mention the thrill of Collounsbury coming to my defense!

And yes, we generally seem to be on the same side.

Every member of the School should be aware that everyone is different and should also respect other people’s views, wishes and habits. Bullying can arise from a lack of respect for others and can occur in a variety of ways. Whether it is physical, emotional or lack of respect for other people’s property, bullying will not be tolerated within the School community.

The line between “having a joke” and bullying is very thin and the school has tried to identify the distinction between the two. Bullying is repeatedly and deliberately causing someone pain by not respecting them or their property. The punishments for bullying must principally allow both sides to be aware that bullying is occurring and, if and when it continues, be severe.

There are therefore three steps which may be taken when a case of bullying (including race, religious or gender offences) is discovered and reported.

a) the first step offers a “no blame” approach to both parties. The victim(s) and the bully(ies) may have a discussion with a teacher, not necessarily associated with them, to be chosen by the pupils involved. This discussion allows both parties to give their opinions and to try and work out a solution which is mutually agreeable.
The aim is to allow bullies to realise that they are causing unhappiness and that their behaviour will not be tolerated. Everything in this discussion is likely to be recoreded, in writing, and kept by the teacher. Following this a letter may be sent to parents outlining what has occurred and the outcome of the discussion. This will be confidential, although other teachers may be informed.

b)If, after this discussion, the bullying continues, it will be assumed that it is deliberate and a more severe approach will need to be taken. The Headmaster is likely to suspend the bully for one week after a second offence.

c) If, after these two steps, the bullying continues, it will be assumed that the pupil has no respect for those around him / her and this will not be tolerated within the School community. It is likely that the Headmaster will require the pupil to leave the School.

It is understood that all cases of bullying are different and nobody can hope to have a totally comprehensive set of guidelines. However the members of the School need to be aware of the sanctions and the punishments that are involved.
All cases of bullying will be investigated in the interests of all concerned and appropriate guidance / support will be offered as necessary.

This isn’t a matter of criminal law. My suggestion is that you get a lawyer, and inform the school, in a properly legal format that they cannot ignore, that your child is being deprived of her constitutional right to an equal education, and they have failed in their duty to protect her from harassment. Schools are held liable for their failure to stop harassment and bullying, once they have been notified that a problem exists. You can yell at them yourself until you’re blue in the face, but if things come to a head, they will always deny you said one single word to them if it isn’t in writing. And then it’s your word against theirs.
Talk to a lawyer. Trust me on this, you won’t regret it. And remember the words of Mark Twain: “On the First Day, God created the idiots. This was for practice. On the Second Day, God created the school boards.”

I posted this in IMHO instead of GD because it was somewhat personal. I wanted to hear what other people would have done/ did do in the same situation.
But Chas I so disagree with your tack. The role of elementary schools is to teach children, not fight and guard against threatening lawyer letters and scare tactics from disgruntled parents. Granted, the course I, the teacher and the guidance counselor took turned out to be the wrong one in retrospect, but I can’t see how involving lawyers and putting the fear of lawsuits into the school staff could have done anything but made a bad situation worse.

Thank you glee. This looks like a very good framework to build on. The fact that it was a joint effort would make it that much more effective.

My children are off to high school where bullies are more dangerous. I think (and this is only my opinion) that any of these other strategies would have been better than what I had to work with. Which was basically nothing.

I’m a member of an organization that runs programs like JillGat and wring mentioned. Only it’s started at the elementary level; we call it “Hands Are Not For Hitting.” So far it’s proved really effective, in terms of a drastic reduction in the number of discipline problems schoolwide. I think I could get you connected to someone who could tell you more about the curriculum.

It’s taken a long time for people to start realizing that bullying is not just a given, that it’s not just a part of childhood, that it’s not just something kids have to learn to deal with. We can do better. We need zero tolerance for bullying, and a recognition that the bully often needs more help than the kids he is bullying. I don’t really see lawyers and threatened litigation being the most effective way to achieve that.

If it were my kid, I’d be pushing for adoption of such a program, and be asking for a team approach (like you said) towards addressing bullying.

biggirl, I have seen too many children driven to suicide by harassment to take such a mild tack. Your child could easily be next. It is not the job of schools to defend themselves against lawsuits, it is their job to PREVENT them. It is the job of schools to educate the children, and your child is being denied an environment where she can get a fair education. They may say it is just a discipline problem with one child (the harasser) but kids are like lemmings and the problem will escalate and more kids will join in the harassment if the one kid gets away with it.
You’re entitled to take any methods you feel are appropriate, but I urge you to at the very minimum, write a letter to the school principal and the School Board informing them that your daughter is being harassed and you expect them to prevent it. If you do not, you will not have much recourse when things get worse. And I suspect that things WILL get worse. I’ve seen it again and again.

Attacking the school with lawyers I think would be wrong too. However, as a middle school teacher, I think that maybe some legal action against the bully and his parents (it is true when they say “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”) would have been in order. Sometimes, it takes a scare tactic like that to get the bully and parents to wake up and smell the Maxwell House.

I have a shirt that my fiance gave me. It says :
Dear God,
Why do you allow violence in schools?
A Concerned Student

Dear Concerned Student,
I’m not allowed in schools.

IMHO, that’s part of what’s wrong in school. The Golden Rule seems completly foreign to them.

Holy Toledo! Not only should I get that attorney on the phone, but I oughta get the S.W.A.T. team out too.

It is not the job of the schools to PREVENT anything. It is the job of the school to educate the children. My daughter was lucky enough to attend a school that recognized this. It is the job of the parent to facilitate and not hinder and distract. P.S. 282 and I had the same goal. We just didn’t have the skills and the tools to acheive this goal in the best manner in this instance.

I guess now would be a good place to point out that this boy was not a monster. He was an ill-bred miscreant who thought it was cool to pick on the smart kid. It made him feel better since he wasn’t the smart one. I think one of the major mistakes I made was to listen to my daughter when she begged me not to confront the boy because it would “embarress” her*.

You seem be operating under a misconception. The school and I were taking steps, just not the right ones. And let me add, this was 3 years ago. The boy left her alone after the fight and suspension.

I’m glad I’m getting some feedback from elementary school teachers, Braves. Ms. F, my daughter’s 5th grade teacher, did what she could. Like Drastic said she couldn’t be everywhere all the time. She wasn’t the greatest disciplinarian (that’s why she had the “smart” class) but I beleive she did her best to keep them apart. What tactics would you have used in this situation?

This however:

is a completely different discussion.

*She has cause. She was with me when strange teenager was taunting a fat girl eating in a takeout chinese restaurant. He was laughing and taunting through the open door to his friends that the fat girl was always calling his sister to go eat at McDonald’s. I passed by and told him he’d eat at McDonald’s more often too, if he wasn’t such an ass with no money. I will tell strange grade school students to stop cursing in my presence. I’ve yelled at kids hanging off fire escapes to get their asses back inside or I’d figure out which door was their’s and bang on it.

The poor girl just acts like she doesn’t know me when I do things like this.