All About Bullying
By Amy Goodman
Co-Director, Autism NOW Center
It’s 6 p.m. You turn on the news and there is another story about a teen who has committed suicide. You keep watching and soon find out that this individual decided to end his/her life because he/she could not deal with bullying at school. As you can imagine, this must be a parent’s worst nightmare. To help protect your child from bullying, we wanted to introduce some information about detecting bullying and ways to stop it after it is occurring. It is important to learn about bullying so that you can protect your child against it.
What is Bullying?
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that is intentional and that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated or has the potential to be repeated over time. It is the most common form of violence. Bullying can take many forms. It can be verbal, involving threats or derogatory remarks. It can be physical or behavioral, in which case a bully may hit, push, steal a victim’s lunch, or hold his nose every time the victim enters the room. It can also be relational, as when a child is deliberately excluded from social events or when vicious rumors about a child are intentionally spread. It can be conducted in traditional settings such as on the playground, in the classroom or in the cafeteria. It can also include cyber-bullying, which occurs through electronic communication like text-messaging and Facebook. [according to stopbullying.gov]
Ways to Detect Bullying
- Talk and listen to your child about what is happening in his/her life and what is going on at school
- Be aware of what your child is looking at online and on the phone. If your child is being secretive, (i.e. turning off cell phones or computers when you walk into the room), this could be a sign that he/she is being bullied
- If he/she shuts you out of their life or won’t answer your questions about what is going on with friends or at schools, these could also be signs they are being bullied.
Ways to Protect Your Child if They Are Being Bullied
- If your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) at school, demand that an anti-bullying clause be included. Write down what it is you specifically want the school to do for your child. An example would be to have a teacher or aide watch for bullying incidents in the bathrooms, halls, and cafeteria.
- Talk to your child’s teacher and the principal in private first to discuss the bullying that is occurring and see if it can be resolved. Do not approach the parents of the bully directly.
- Ask if you can come to your child’s class and talk about bullying or about your child’s disability to raise awareness about these issues.
- Think about starting a parent group to develop a plan to educate, discuss and help stop bullying in schools
- If necessary, involve the police or file grievances with your local Office of Civil Rights.
- If bullying is persistent and extreme, consider transferring your child to another school.
- If you have to file a lawsuit against the school and the parents of the bully, find a lawyer whose expertise is in special education law.