Created on: March 01, 2013
The flu, sore throats and head colds can run rampant throughout a school. But there's a far more menacing malady that's reached epidemic proportions in schools – bullying. It can be as subtle as the popular girls refusing to let someone less popular sit with them at lunch, to the big kid who smacks around the little kid who wouldn't provide him with the answers to a test. With the prevalence of violence in schools, a bully may even do the unthinkable – he may threaten others with a knife or gun.
The effects of bullying can be severe, and sometimes permanent. According to the National Education Association, 160,000 children miss school daily because they fear bullying. Even bullies don't escape unscathed: they often do poorly in school, smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, use drugs and commit crimes. It's not enough that teachers talk to the parents of the victims – they must address the parents of bullies. And teachers must broach the subject delicately, since parents often don't witness any of this abusive conduct, and may believe that their child is well-behaved.
When you speak with the parents of a bully, know that it can be difficult for them to hear that their child is saying or doing unacceptable things. Be sure to approach them in an objective, non-confrontational manner – refrain from getting emotional. Let the parents know that you're certain they're not cognizant of the problem, and that it's unfortunate that you have to meet under these circumstances, but their child is having some behavioral challenges.
Be aware that you may encounter parents who get angry or defensive. They may also minimize the situation and insist that their kid "is just being a kid." If a parent isn't taking the problem seriously, you can say that you know it doesn't seem like a major issue, but you're very concerned about the circumstances, and about the wellbeing of the other children.
If a parent gets confrontational, let them know that their bullying is just as unacceptable as their child's bullying by ending the conversation, leaving or asking them to leave. You could be in a risky situation, and may need to bring in a third party, such as another teacher, a guidance counselor or even the principal. The main goal is to get the parents to curb their child's bullying behavior. And that may mean being the bad guy or putting up a united front.
Don't wait for the bullying problem to go away, because chances are it could escalate. And don't worry about
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