What do you do when your child is being bullied by a teacher?
I just recently went through this with my own child. I had known for a while that he didn’t care for one of his teachers. He came home almost every day with stories how difficult she was- yelling, being very strict, and generally just not nice. She was the worst part of his school day. The thing is, in the beginning, I supported her. I told my son to buck up, he had to learn to deal with difficult people in life. I explained to him that when he entered the workforce, he wasn’t always going to like his bosses, but he did have to learn how to respect them and follow their rules. I emphasized that he must be polite and respectful- to do his work, and be quiet. This too, shall pass.
However, I noticed it was more than just a strict teacher when he was in tears about a grade he had received, and he was scared to address it with her. He finally mustered up the courage to email her about it, and she blew him off and blamed him for the poor grade- not her poor instructions. He was scared to talk to her because she wouldn’t listen, she’d just belittle the student who questioned her and her word was law. There were times he didn’t want to go to school to avoid her. It all came to a head one day when my son was sick and on his way to the nurse when she stopped him and made him go outside, which resulted in an asthma-induced coughing fit. That went far beyond bullying, and put my son into a dangerous situation. It was also in clear violation of our schools policy: “We pledge to be respectful, responsible, honest and safe.” When I questioned her, she refused to give me specifics on what happened, and how it was handled. I needed to take action.
What to Do When the Bully Is A Teacher
- Listen to the whole situation and get a few perspectives. Sometimes, what our kids come home with is just part of a story. Remember a teacher is maintaining control of sometimes over 25 kids- she has rules to keep her classroom safe and orderly. She makes rules for a reason. There also needs to be exceptions to the rules. It’s helpful to get opinions of others who may have had this teacher. Remember, being a strict teacher who pushes a child to do their best isn’t a bully. Being a teacher the students are frightened to question or go to when they need help very well may be.
- Contact the teacher. Some teachers are more commutative than others. Communication is key. If they won’t answer emails, or phone calls, document it, and move up the chain.
- Request a meeting with administrators: Email is a good way to request the meeting. Give a synopsis of what’s happened, and why you want to meet. Also, you can CC (carbon copy) the school principal, the guidance office, the superintendent, your spouse, and have them all in the loop. You may also copy your attorney if you feel it was warranted.
- Know your schools anti-bullying policy. Never mind that it might say”students”. If anyone at the school is violating the policy, they are responsible. Each state may also have anti-bullying policies written.
- Attend the meeting with a clear mind, and NO attitude. No one is going to listen to you if you go in a with an attitude. Be calm and collected. Know in advance what you want to say, and what the best outcome for your child will be. Bring along someone who can help you.
- Bring your proof. Write up a clear statement outlining what has happened, with a timeline. Add what you feel is an acceptable solution. Bring printouts of everything. Keep a copy of all papers, homework, letters, emails, phone logs, written logs of conversations, everything your have that pertains to the teacher and the incident. In my case, I had all the emails, the homework assignment, a copy of the handbook which stated she was clearly in violation of the school bullying policy, and a log of what my child said happened.
- Make a plan to address the issue. Work together with administrators to address the entire issue, with a clear timeline and plan of action.
- Request follow up. Do not leave the meeting without writing down what the actions taken will be. Have the administrators sign it. Make an appointment meet again or to call and discuss the results in a week.
- Do not quit. If you feel like the meeting you have with the administrator isn’t’ going to address the issue, move up. Go to the superintendent. If you get nowhere, ask to meet again with the school attorney present, and you’ll be bringing your attorney. Do not stop until your child is in a safe environment. They are at school becasue they are owed an education. However, if they cannot learn from a teacher who is bullying them, it’s a failure on all parts.
In my son’s case, when we didn’t get communication from our son’s teacher, we went to the administrators who were very helpful. We came up with a plan of action that worked for our son, and they made sure to meet with him and let him know they were there for him, and he could go to them anytime. They reassured him that he was safe in school, and that it was a good place to be. Most of my son’s teachers are wonderful people who clearly care about the kids they teach. He enjoys most of his classes and does well. The thing is, you don’t expect those who are supposed to help and teach kids to be the ones bulling them, but it happens. Sometimes, you are your child’s only (and best) advocate.