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My child is being bullied at school. What can I do?

Bullying occurs in schools and among young people and is a common cause of upset for children and worry and anxiety for their parents. Often bullying goes unreported, with victims suffering in silence and parents left baffled by their child’s withdrawn behaviour.

Bullying can take many forms, but is most commonly perceived to be physical or psychological. Physical bullying might include fighting, hair pulling, pinching or kicking. Psychological bullying includes name-calling, teasing, spreading rumours or excluding a child from play or activities.

In essence bullying is any action that causes harm, intimidation or upset to another child, or indeed adult.

What are the signs that my child is being bullied?

Bullying can often be a silent torment for children, with many letting on few signs that they are suffering. However, there are some common signs to look out for that parents should know and be aware of.

Examples of behaviour exhibited by victims of bullying include:

  • Not wishing to attend school
  • Repeated, non-specific illnesses
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Disturbed sleep and bedwetting
  • Unexplained damage to school clothes or possessions
  • My child is being bullied and the school won’t act

You may well have informed your child’s school of a suspicion that a child is being bullied. Often parents feel that the school is not taking sufficient action, so the first step is to ensure that the message about your child is clear and properly communicated.

When you notify the school, be sure to explain exactly what you understand is happening - be specific and stay calm. Ask about the school’s anti-bullying policy, and ask for an action plan from the school so you understand how they intend to approach the problem. Finally, arrange a follow up to discuss how things are going.

What can I do if the school isn’t doing enough about bullying

Once you have clearly explained the situation to the school you are in a better position to escalate any complaint you might have regarding the way the school is dealing with the bullying complaint.

Perhaps the first escalation should be to the head teacher, who should be in the best position to instruct teachers and implement the necessary changes to ensure the bullying is stopped. After the head teacher, your next port of call would be the management of the school, commonly the school board or local authority.

If the bullying is serious enough there is a chance it could amount to criminal behaviour. There are many examples of cases of bullying that represent sustained harassment and should be dealt with by the police. Harassment is a crime, and the police will act if there is sufficient evidence.

Increasingly social media has become a forum for bullying among school children, with kids taunting their friends on Facebook or Twitter. This is known as cyberbullying. There is no difference between bullying in person and online, but one advantage of cyber bullying is there is a written record that can be used as evidence against the perpetrators.

Anyone can report bullying to the police, but it always best to report bullying to the school first, expect in the most serious circumstances.

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