What if Your Child IS the Bully?

Reprinted with permission from PACER

The word “bullying” often conjures up an image of a schoolyard scene, with a big, intimidating student towering over a small, cowering child.

That’s just one face of bullying—and of children who bully. Another face of a bully might be…that of your child. Surprised? Many parents are. Often they have no idea that their child is harassing other children. Yet knowing the facts—and acting to change the situation—is vitally important in making the future safer for your child and all children. Here’s why. Children who bully suffer as much as those they target. They are significantly more likely than others to lead lives marked by school failure, depression, violence, crime, and other problems, according to experts. The message is clear: Bullying is too important to ignore. Could your child be bullying others? Would you know? Once you found out, would you know what to do? Here is some information that can help.

What is bullying? Bullying is different from the routine conflicts of childhood. It is intentional behavior that is meant to hurt and dominate another person. Characterized by an imbalance of power between the child who bullies and the target, bullying can be physical, verbal, emotional (social), or sexual. It includes harassment via e-mail and instant messaging.

Who does it? Children who bully come in a variety of packages—the waif-like second grader, the big sixth-grade boy, the child with a disability, the popular girl, the loner. They can come from any background, race, income level, family situation, gender, or religion. Research has shown that despite their differences children who bully typically have one or more of the following traits.

They may…

be quick to blame others and unwilling to accept responsibility for their actions • lack empathy, compassion, and understanding for others’ feelings

be bullied themselves

have immature social and interpersonal skills

want to be in control

be frustrated and anxious

come from families where parents or siblings bully

find themselves trying to fit in with a peer group that encourages bullying

have parents who are unable to set limits, are inconsistent with discipline, do not provide supervision, or do not take an interest in their child’s life.

If you see these traits in your child or hear from others that your child is bullying, you may want to look into the issue. If your child is bullying, take heart. There’s a lot you can do to help correct the problem. Remember, bullying is a learned behavior—and it can be “unlearned.” By talking with your child and seeking help, you can teach your child more appropriate ways of handling feelings, peer pressure, and conflicts. Here are some ideas.

Help your child to stop bullying

Talk with your child. Find out why he or she is bullying others. You might explore how your child is feeling about himself or herself, ask if he or she is being bullied by someone else, and invite discussion about bullying. Find out if your child’s friends are also bullying. Ask how you can help.

Confirm that your child’s behavior is bullying and not the result of a disability. Sometimes, children with disabilities bully other children. Other times, children with certain behavioral disorders or limited social skills may act in ways that are mistaken for bullying. Whether the behavior is intentional bullying or is due to a disability, it still needs to be addressed. If your child with a disability is bullying, you may want to include bullying prevention goals in his or her Individualized Education Program (IEP).

Teach empathy, respect, and compassion. Children who bully often lack awareness of how others feel. Try to understand your child’s feelings, and help your child appreciate how others feel when they are bullied. Let your child know that everyone has feelings and that feelings matter.

Make your expectations clear. Let your child know that bullying is not okay under any circumstances and that you will not tolerate it. Take immediate action if you learn that he or she is involved in a bullying incident.

Provide clear, consistent consequences for bullying. Be specific about what will happen if the bullying continues. Try to find meaningful consequences, such as loss of privileges or a face-to-face meeting with the child being bullied.

Teach by example. Model nonviolent behavior and encourage cooperative, noncompetitive play. Help your child learn different ways to resolve conflict and deal with feelings such as anger, insecurity, or frustration. Teach and reward appropriate behavior.

Role play. Help your child practice different ways of handling situations. You can take turns playing the part of the child who does the bullying and the one who is bullied. Doing so will help your child understand what it’s like to be in the other person’s shoes.

Provide positive feedback. When your child handles conflict well, shows compassion for others, or finds a positive way to deal with feelings, provide praise and recognition. Positive reinforcement goes a long way toward improving behavior. It is more effective than punishment.

Be realistic. It takes time to change behavior. Be patient as your child learns new ways of handling feelings and conflict. Keep your love and support visible.

Seek help. Your child’s doctor, teacher, school principal, school social worker, or a psychologist can help you and your child learn how to understand and deal with bullying behavior. Ask if your school offers a bullying prevention program.

Bullying hurts everyone. Parents can play a significant role in stopping the behavior, and the rewards will be immeasurable for all.

This resource was created by PACER Center’s Bullying Prevention Project, an effort that unites, engages, and educates communities nationwide to prevent bullying through creative, relevant, and interactive resources. Find more resources at www.pacer.org/publications/bullying.asp

Is Your Child Being Bullied In Cyberspace

Reprinted with permission from PACER

If the word “bullying” makes you think of one child picking on another in the schoolyard, it may be time to update your image of this important problem.

While such face-to-face harassment certainly still exists, new ways of bullying have emerged. With the proliferation of cell phones, instant messaging, social networking Web sites such as MySpace, and other technologies, bullying has muscled its way into cyberspace.

Cyberbullying, as this new technological danger is called, may already have happened to your child. According to a study done by wiredsafety.org, 90 percent of middle-school students say they have been the victims of this new form of bullying. Perhaps more sobering, only 15 percent of parents even know what cyberbullying is, according to another study by the group.

Cyberbullying: What it is and how it works

Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, hurt, embarrass, humiliate, or intimidate another person. It can be done anonymously, which makes it easy for one child to hurt another and not be held accountable or see the impact of his or her actions. Because this technology reaches a wider audience than just the person who is targeted, its effects can be devastating.

This form of bullying can take place in many ways. For example, some young people have discovered sites where they can create a free Web page—including one intended to bully another child. Embarrassing pictures, private instant messaging (IM) exchanges, and hateful or threatening messages can be posted on these sites. Some young people also post mean comments at legitimate Web sites’ guest books. Others post blogs (short for “Web logs”), information that is instantly published to a Web site. Bullies have found blogging to be a powerful tool when encouraging peers to gang up on another child.

Cyberbullies, like schoolyard bullies, look for targets who are vulnerable, socially isolated, and may not understand social norms. Many children with disabilities have these characteristics, and so they may be especially vulnerable to cyberbullying.

Your 3-step plan to protect your children from cyberbullying

Today’s children are the first generation to experience cyberbullying. Today’s parents are the first to figure out how to respond to the problem.

As you venture into this new territory, here are some tips that you may find helpful, says Julie Hertzog, PACER’s bullying prevention project coordinator.

  1. Raise the topic of cyberbullying with your children.

Many children are afraid to initiate such a conversation because they fear that their access to the Web and cell phones will be eliminated; others are scared to admit that they are being bullied. Open the subject for discussion and let your children know that you want them to have some cyber freedom—but that it needs to be safe.

  1. Set cyber safety rules.

You set safety rules for your children in the physical world. Do the same in cyberspace. Remind your children that they never really know who is on the other end of cyber communication. It could be the person they think it is, or it could be a predator or a bully. With that in mind, two good guidelines are, “Don’t do or say anything online that you wouldn’t do or say in person. Don’t reveal anything that you wouldn’t tell a stranger.”

Specific advice for your children might include:

Never give out your e-mail password, a photo, or any personal data, such as a physical description, phone number, or address. A bully could use that information to harass you in many ways.

Never share too many personal details. For example, if you keep an online diary, someone could use that information to bully or ridicule you.

Never share your IM account password with anyone, even your best friend. That friend may share it with other people, or the friendship may end—and your private messages could suddenly become very public. Also, a cyberbully with your password can sign on, pretend to be you, and behave inappropriately with others to embarrass and humiliate you.

  1. Know what your children are doing online.

Privacy is important, but safety is more important. As a parent, you have a responsibility to know what your children are doing online. Keep your children’s computer in an open spot, such as the family room, where you can supervise Web activity. If your children have an account on a social networking site such as MySpace or Facebook, for example, know how to access it so you can monitor the communications. If you do discover that your children are subjected to cyberbullying, document it by printing the e-mails or Web pages, saving electronic copies, and contacting your children’s school or the police.

Technology offers your children many advantages and benefits—and, occasionally, some risks. The solution is not to remove their access to technology but rather to manage the risks. You can do that by being aware of your children’s cyber activities, learning about new technologies, and adding “cyber parenting” to your list of talents.

Cyberlife by the numbers—a new world for many parents

Cyberbullying

22% of students know someone who has been bullied online.*

19% of students admit to saying something hurtful to others online.*

12% of students have personally become upset by strangers online.*

* Based on a 2005–06 survey of 13,000 students in grades 5-12.

Kids Online

58% of students admit to using the Internet unsafely, inappropriately, or illegally.

55% of students report having given out personal information (e.g. name, age, gender, home address) to someone they have only met online.***

31% of students have a personal Web page. ***

*** Based on a 2005–06 survey of 12,000 students in grades 5 – 12.

Digital Divide

93% of parents say they have established rules for their child’s Internet activity.*

37% of students report being given no rules from their parents on using the Internet.**

95% of parents say they know “some” or “a lot” about where their children go or what their children do on the Internet.*

41% of students do not share where they go or what they do on the Internet with their parents.**

26% of students believe their parents would be concerned if they knew what they did on the Internet.**

* Based on a 2004–05 pre-assessment survey of 1,350 parents.
** Based on a 2005–06 pre-assessment survey of 12,650 students in grades 5-12.
Statistics from the Internet safety organization i-safe and its sister group, Teenangels. Learn more at www.isafe.org and www.teenangels.org.

This resource was created by PACER Center’s Bullying Prevention Project, an effort that unites, engages, and educates communities nationwide to prevent bullying through creative, relevant, and interactive resources. Find more resources at www.pacer.org/publications/bullying.asp

 

Is Your Child Being Bullied In Cyberspace

Reprinted with permission from PACER

If the word “bullying” makes you think of one child picking on another in the schoolyard, it may be time to update your image of this important problem.

While such face-to-face harassment certainly still exists, new ways of bullying have emerged. With the proliferation of cell phones, instant messaging, social networking Web sites such as Facebook, and other technologies, bullying has muscled its way into cyberspace.

Cyberbullying, as this new technological danger is called, may already have happened to your child. According to a study done by wiredsafety.org, 90 percent of middle-school students say they have been the victims of this new form of bullying. Perhaps more sobering, only 15 percent of parents even know what cyberbullying is, according to another study by the group.

Cyberbullying: What it is and how it works

Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, hurt, embarrass, humiliate, or intimidate another person. It can be done anonymously, which makes it easy for one child to hurt another and not be held accountable or see the impact of his or her actions. Because this technology reaches a wider audience than just the person who is targeted, its effects can be devastating.

This form of bullying can take place in many ways. For example, some young people have discovered sites where they can create a free Web page—including one intended to bully another child. Embarrassing pictures, private instant messaging (IM) exchanges, and hateful or threatening messages can be posted on these sites. Some young people also post mean comments at legitimate Web sites’ guest books. Others post blogs (short for “Web logs”), information that is instantly published to a Web site. Bullies have found blogging to be a powerful tool when encouraging peers to gang up on another child.

Cyberbullies, like schoolyard bullies, look for targets who are vulnerable, socially isolated, and may not understand social norms. Many children with disabilities have these characteristics, and so they may be especially vulnerable to cyberbullying.

Your 3-step plan to protect your children from cyberbullying

Today’s children are the first generation to experience cyberbullying. Today’s parents are the first to figure out how to respond to the problem.

As you venture into this new territory, here are some tips that you may find helpful, says Julie Hertzog, PACER’s bullying prevention project coordinator.

  1. Raise the topic of cyberbullying with your children.
    Many children are afraid to initiate such a conversation because they fear that their access to the Web and cell phones will be eliminated; others are scared to admit that they are being bullied. Open the subject for discussion and let your children know that you want them to have some cyber freedom—but that it needs to be safe.
  2. Set cyber safety rules.
    You set safety rules for your children in the physical world. Do the same in cyberspace. Remind your children that they never really know who is on the other end of cyber communication. It could be the person they think it is, or it could be a predator or a bully. With that in mind, two good guidelines are, “Don’t do or say anything online that you wouldn’t do or say in person. Don’t reveal anything that you wouldn’t tell a stranger.”Specific advice for your children might include:Never give out your e-mail password, a photo, or any personal data, such as a physical description, phone number, or address. A bully could use that information to harass you in many ways.Never share too many personal details. For example, if you keep an online diary, someone could use that information to bully or ridicule you.Never share your IM account password with anyone, even your best friend. That friend may share it with other people, or the friendship may end—and your private messages could suddenly become very public. Also, a cyberbully with your password can sign on, pretend to be you, and behave inappropriately with others to embarrass and humiliate you.
  3. Know what your children are doing online.
    Privacy is important, but safety is more important. As a parent, you have a responsibility to know what your children are doing online. Keep your children’s computer in an open spot, such as the family room, where you can supervise Web activity. If your children have an account on a social networking site such as MySpace or Facebook, for example, know how to access it so you can monitor the communications. If you do discover that your children are subjected to cyberbullying, document it by printing the e-mails or Web pages, saving electronic copies, and contacting your children’s school or the police.

Technology offers your children many advantages and benefits—and, occasionally, some risks. The solution is not to remove their access to technology but rather to manage the risks. You can do that by being aware of your children’s cyber activities, learning about new technologies, and adding “cyber parenting” to your list of talents.

Cyberlife by the numbers — a new world for many parents

Cyberbullying

  • 22% of students know someone who has been bullied online.*
  • 19% of students admit to saying something hurtful to others online.*
  • 12% of students have personally become upset by strangers online.*

* Based on a 2005–06 survey of 13,000 students in grades 5-12.

Kids Online

  • 58% of students admit to using the Internet unsafely, inappropriately, or illegally.
  • 55% of students report having given out personal information (e.g. name, age, gender, home address) to someone they have only met online.***
  • 31% of students have a personal Web page. ***

*** Based on a 2005–06 survey of 12,000 students in grades 5 – 12.

Digital Divide

  • 93% of parents say they have established rules for their child’s Internet activity.*
  • 37% of students report being given no rules from their parents on using the Internet.**
  • 95% of parents say they know “some” or “a lot” about where their children go or what their children do on the Internet.*
  • 41% of students do not share where they go or what they do on the Internet with their parents.**
  • 26% of students believe their parents would be concerned if they knew what they did on the Internet.**

* Based on a 2004–05 pre-assessment survey of 1,350 parents.
** Based on a 2005–06 pre-assessment survey of 12,650 students in grades 5-12.
Statistics from the Internet safety organization i-safe and its sister group, Teenangels. Learn more at www.isafe.org and www.teenangels.org.

This resource was created by PACER Center’s Bullying Prevention Project, an effort that unites, engages, and educates communities nationwide to prevent bullying through creative, relevant, and interactive resources.

 

Help Your Child Recognize the Signs of Bullying

Reprinted with permission from PACER

Children may not always realize that they are being bullied.

They might think it is bullying only if they are being physically hurt; they might believe the other child is joking; or they may not understand the subtle social norms and cues. Children can benefit from a definition of the differences between friendly behavior and bullying behavior. The basic rule: Let children know if the behavior hurts or harms them, either emotionally or physically, it is bullying.

Parents can prepare themselves to talk with their children by considering how they are going to respond to their child’s questions and emotions. They can also decide what information they would like to give their child about bullying.

Parents should be ready to:

  • Listen. It is the child’s story; let him or her tell it. They may be in emotional pain about the way they are being treated.
  • Believe. The knowledge that a child is being bullied can raise many emotions. To be an effective advocate, parents need to react in a way that encourages the child to trust.
  • Be supportive. Tell the child it is not his fault and that he does not deserve to be bullied. Empower the child by telling her how terrific she is. Avoid judgmental comments about the child or the child who bullies. The child may already be feeling isolated. Hearing negative statements from parents may only further isolate him or her.
  • Be patient. Children may not be ready to open up right away. Talking about the bullying can be difficult because children may fear retaliation from the bully or think that, even if they tell an adult, nothing will change. The child might be feeling insecure, withdrawn, frightened, or ashamed.
  • Provide information. Parents should educate their child about bullying by providing information at a level that the child can understand.
  • Explore options for intervention strategies.Parents can discuss options with their child to deal with bullying behavior.

Questions to Ask Your Child about Bullying

Open-ended questions will help the child talk about his or her situation. Begin with questions that address the child’s environment. For example, “How was your bus ride today?” or “Have you ever seen anyone being mean to someone else on the bus?”

Then move on to questions that directly affect the child such as, “Are you ever scared to get on the bus?” or “Has anyone ever been mean to you on the bus?” If the child is talking about the situation, parents can help their child recognize bullying behavior by asking more questions such as:

  • Did the child hurt you on purpose?
    • Was it done more than once?
    • Did it make you feel bad or angry? How do you feel about the behavior?
    • Did the child know you were being hurt?
    • Is the other child more powerful (i.e. bigger, scarier) than you in some way?

For the child who is reluctant to talk about the situation, questions may include:

  • How was gym class today?
    • Who did you sit by at lunch?
    • You seem to be feeling sick a lot and want to stay home. Please tell me about that.
    • Are kids making fun of you?
    • Are there a lot of cliques at school? What do you think about them?
    • Has anyone ever touched you in a way that did not feel right?

Reactions to Avoid

When children choose to tell their parents about bullying, parents might have one of three responses.

  1. Tell their child to stand up to the bully
    2. Tell their child to ignore and avoid the bully
    3. Take matters into their own hands

While these reactions express genuine caring, concern, and good intentions – and often reflect what parents were told by their own parents or other adults – they are likely to be ineffective. Parents may feel better for having taken action, but these reactions can have harmful consequences. Here’s why these responses will likely be unsuccessful:

  1. Tell your child to stand up to the bully – This can imply that it is your child’s responsibility to handle the situation. While there is a ring of truth to this statement (being assertive is often a good response) sending your child back into the situation without further information will probably cause more harm. A more effective response is to brainstorm options with your child about what you can do as a team to respond to the situation.
  2. Tell your child to ignore the bully – This is easier said than done. Your child has probably tried ignoring the situation, which is a typical response for children. If that method had been effective, however, there wouldn’t be a need for the child to seek your help. It is difficult to ignore someone who is sitting behind you on the bus or next to you in class.
  3. In addition, if the student who is bullying realizes that their target is purposefully “ignoring” them, it can actually ignite further bullying, since that response provides the sense of power and control the student seeks.
  4. Take matters into your own hands – A normal gut response from parents is to try to fix the situation and remove their child from harm. For example, a parent might call the parents of the student who is bullying, or directly confront the bully. Remember, when children tell a parent about bullying, they are looking for the parent to guide them to a solution that makes them feel empowered. Involve them in the process of determining next steps. Typically, calling the other parent or directly confronting the bullying student is ineffective. It is best to work through the school and implement steps to respond.

It is important to Help Your Child Know That They Are Not Alone

  • You are not alone. Many children feel that they are the only ones who are bullied and that no one cares. Let them know that there are people who do care.
  • It is not up to you to stop the bullying. It is never the responsibility of the child to change what is happening to them.
  • Bullying happens to a lot of kids but that NEVER makes it right. Let your child know that bullying happens in small schools, large schools, rural schools, and city schools. It can happen in preschool, high school, and every school in between. It happens in Australia, Argentina, and all around the globe. Certain people will say that some kids deserve to be bullied because of the way the child looks or acts, but this is simply not true.
  • No one deserves to be bullied. Everyone deserves respect. All students have the right to be treated with dignity and respect, no matter what.
  • We all need to work together. Everyone is responsible for addressing bullying. The community, schools, parents, and students all play a role.

PACER Resources

Student Action Plan

Are you an educator working with a student being bullied, a parent looking for ways to help your child change their behavior, or a student who wants to take action against bullying but you aren’t sure what to do? As a student, bullying is something that impacts you, your peers, and your school – whether you’re the target of bullying, a witness, or the person who bullies. Bullying can end, but that won’t happen unless students, parents, and educators work together and take action.

The first step is to create a plan that works for you and your situation. This student action plan is an opportunity for you – either on your own or with parents and teachers – to develop a strategy to change what’s happening to you or someone else. It’s your chance to make a difference.

Advice Gone Wrong

An interactive teen perspective (written by teens for adults) on unhelpful advice from parents and educators.

Inside Story

An interactive look, from a teen perspective, at some of the reasons students don’t talk about bullying. Meet Pete. He is a dude with a lot going on inside, and he has zeroed in on some of the reasons that students don’t tell an adult about bullying.

We Need To Talk – Video

Teens have their turn talking about what is helpful and what they want parents to know.

This resource was created by PACER Center’s Bullying Prevention Project, an effort that unites, engages, and educates communities nationwide to prevent bullying through creative, relevant, and interactive resources. Find more resources at www.pacer.org/publications/bullying.asp

Bullying and Harassment of Students with Disabilities

Top 10 facts parents, educators, and students need to know

Reprinted with permission from PACER

  1. The facts — Students with disabilities are much more likely to be bullied than their nondisabled peers.

Bullying of children with disabilities is significant but there is very little research to document it. Only 10 U.S. studies have been conducted on the connection between bullying and developmental disabilities but all of these studies found that children with disabilities were two to three times more likely to be bullied than their nondisabled peers. One study shows that 60 percent of students with disabilities report being bullied regularly compared with 25 percent of all students.

  1. Bullying affects a student’s ability to learn.

Many students with disabilities are already addressing challenges in the academic environment. When they are bullied, it can directly impact their education.

Bullying is not a harmless rite of childhood that everyone experiences. Research shows that bullying can negatively impact a child’s access to education and lead to:

  • School avoidance and higher rates of absenteeism
    • Decrease in grades
    • Inability to concentrate
    • Loss of interest in academic achievement
    • Increase in dropout rates

Learn more about other common misperceptions about bullying at pacer.org/bullying/resources/publications/ 

  1. The definition — Bullying based on a student’s disability may be considered harassment.

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have stated that bullying may also be considered harassment when it is based on a student’s race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or religion

Harassing behaviors may include:

  • Unwelcome conduct such as verbal abuse, name-calling, epithets, or slurs
    • Graphic or written statements
    • Threats
    • Physical assault
    • Other conduct that may be physically threatening, harmful, or humiliating
  1. The Federal Laws — Disability harassment is a civil rights issue.

Parents have legal rights when their child with a disability is the target of bullying or disability harassment. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (often referred to as ‘Section 504’) and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Title II) are the federal laws that apply if the harassment denies a student with a disability an equal opportunity to education. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces Section 504 and Title II of the ADA. Students with a 504 plan or an Individualized Education Program (IEP) would qualify for these protections.

According to a 2000 Dear Colleague letter from the Office for Civil Rights, “States and school districts also have a responsibility under Section 504, Title II, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which is enforced by OSERS [the Office for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services], to ensure that a free appropriate public education (FAPE ) is made available to eligible students with disabilities. Disability harassment may result in a denial of FAPE under these statutes.”

The letter further outlines how bullying in the form of disability harassment may prevent a student with an IEP from receiving an appropriate education: “The IDEA was enacted to ensure that recipients of IDEA funds make available to students with disabilities the appropriate special education and related services that enable them to access and benefit from public education. The specific services to be provided a student with a disability are set forth in the student’s individualized education program (IEP), which is developed by a team that includes the student’s parents, teachers and, where appropriate, the student. Harassment of a student based on disability may decrease the student’s ability to benefit from his or her education and amount to a denial of FAPE .”

  1. The State Laws — Students with disabilities have legal rights when they are a target of bullying.

Most states have laws that address bullying. Some have information specific to students with disabilities. For a complete overview of state laws, visit Olweus.org.

Many school districts also have individual policies that address how to respond to bullying situations. Contact your local district to request a written copy of the district policy on bullying.

  1. The adult response is important

Parents, educators, and other adults are the most important advocates that a student with disabilities can have. It is important that adults know the best way to talk with someone in a bullying situation.

Some children are able to talk with an adult about personal matters and may be willing to discuss bullying. Others may be reluctant to speak about the situation.There could be a number of reasons for this. The student bullying them may have told them not to tell or they might fear that if they do tell someone, the bullying won’t stop or may become worse.

When preparing to talk to children about bullying, adults (parents and educators) should consider how they will handle the child’s questions and emotions and what their own responses will be. Adults should be prepared to listen without judgment, providing the child with a safe place to work out their feelings and determine their next steps.

It is never the responsibility of the child to fix a bullying situation. If children could do that, they wouldn’t be seeking the help of an adult in the first place.

For more information, read PACER’s “Talking With Your Child About Bullying.”

  1. The resources — Students with disabilities have resources that are specifically designed for their situation.

IEP

Students with disabilities, who are eligible for special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), will have an Individualized Education Program (IEP).

The IEP can be a helpful tool in a bullying prevention plan. Remember, every child receiving special education is entitled to a free, appropriate public education (FAPE ), and bullying can become an obstacle to that education.

For more information, read PACE R’s “Individualized Education Program (IEP) and Bullying.”

Dear Colleague Letter

In 2000, a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter was sent to school districts nationwide from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) that defined the term “disability harassment.”

www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/disabharassltr.html

In 2010, another Dear Colleague letter from the Office for Civil Rights was issued that reminded school districts of their responsibilities under civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and religion.

www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201010.html

Template Letters

pacer.org/bullying/resources/publications/

Parents should contact school staff each time their child informs them that he or she has been bullied. Parents may use one of these template letters as a guide for writing a letter to their child’s school. These letters contain standard language and “fill-in-the-blank” spaces so that the letter can be customized for each child’s situation.

PACER Center’s sample letter(s) can serve two purposes:

  • First, the letter will alert school administration of the bullying and your desire for interventions.
    • Second, the letter can serve as your written record when referring to events. The record (letter) should be factual and absent of opinions or emotional statements.

The two letters — “Student with an IEP, Notifying School About Bullying” and “Student with a 504, Notifying School About Bullying” — are for parents who have a child withan Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or Section 504. The bullying law of the individual state applies to all students as noted in the law. When bullying is based on the child’s disability, federal law can also apply under Section 504, Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

  1. The Power of Bystanders – More than 50 percent of bullying situations stop when a peer intervenes.

Most students don’t like to see bullying but they may not know what to do when it happens. Peer advocacy — students speaking out on behalf of others — is a unique approach that empowers students to protect those targeted by bullying.

Peer advocacy works for two reasons: First, students are more likely than adults to see what is happening with their peers and peer influence is powerful. Second, a student telling someone to stop bullying has much more impact than an adult giving the same advice.

Learn more about peer advocacy at pacer.org/bullying/ resources/peer-advocacy.asp

  1. The importance of self-advocacy

Self-advocacy means the student with a disability is responsible for telling people what they want and need in a straightforward way. Students need to be involved in the steps taken to address a bullying situation. Self-advocacy is knowing how to:

  • Speak up for yourself
    • Describe your strengths, disability, needs, and wishes
    • Take responsibility for yourself
    • Learn about your rights
    • Obtain help, or know who to ask, if you have a question

The person who has been bullied should be involved in deciding how to respond to the bullying. This involvement can provide students with a sense of control over their situation, and help them realize that someone is willing to listen, take action, and reassure them that their opinions and ideas are important.

To learn more about self advocacy for students, read PACER’s “Tips for Teens: Use Your IEP Meetings to Learn How to Advocate for Yourself.”

The Student Action Plan is a self-advocacy resource. It includes three simple steps to explore specific, tangible actions to address the situation:

  1. Define the situation
    2. Think about how the situation could be different
    3. Write down the steps to take action
  2. You are not alone

When students have been bullied, they often believe they are the only one this is happening to, and that no one else cares. In fact, they are not alone.

There are individuals, communities, and organizations that do care. It is not up to one person to end the bullying and it is never the responsibility of the child to change what is happening to them. No one deserves to be bullied. All people should be treated with dignity and respect, no matter what. Everyone has a responsibility — and a role to play — as schools, parents, students, and the community work together for positive change.

This resource was created by PACER Center’s Bullying Prevention Project, an effort that unites, engages, and educates communities nationwide to prevent bullying through creative, relevant, and interactive resources. Find more resources at www.pacer.org/publications/bullying.asp

Cyber Bullying & Our Children

Cyber Bullying & Our Children

Not a day goes by when we don’t hear something in the news about bullying.  Our schools provide prevention techniques, teachers are more attentive, and parents are on the lookout for the signs. However, just when we thought we were sensitive, trained, and aware of these issues, another formidable opponent has surfaced…the cyber bully.

Children and teens of all abilities can fall prey to this technological torment.  If your children access the internet or social networking sites, it’s important to be aware that bullying can, and does, happen online.  Just like those faced on the school bus or in the lunchroom, cyber bullies look for targets that are vulnerable or may not understand social norms.  Children with disabilities become an easy target for this reason.

I recently was given a brochure, “Cyberbullying and Children with Disabilities, what parents can do to protect their children.”  The information proved very helpful, informative, and full of a variety of tips about how to start the conversation with your kids regarding hurtful things that could happen online.  Parents need to be aware that some kids may fail to report bullying for fear of losing access to devices such as cell phones and iPads.  Due to this fear, parents should set up clear safety rules regarding usage for such devices.  Two examples of these rules are not saying or doing anything online that you wouldn’t say or do in person and not to reveal anything that you wouldn’t tell a stranger.  There is an extensive list of great guidelines to help parents deal with bullying.

For more information visit: www.ParentCenterNetwork.org.

 

Common Views and Myths about Bullying

Reprinted with permission from PACER

In spite of the significant impact that bullying can have on a target, our society often views it as acceptable behavior. There are many misconceptions that characterize bullying, all of which can lead to minimizing the behavior. Here are a few of these common misconceptions, followed by the facts.

“Bullying is a natural part of childhood.”

Fact: There is nothing natural about being bullied. Bullying is often considered a normal part of childhood because it is such a common experience. Physical or emotional aggression toward others should not be tolerated as a normal part of childhood.

“Words will never hurt you.”

Fact: Even though words don’t leave bruises or broken bones, studies have shown they may leave deep emotional scars that can have lifelong implications. Children learn at a very early age that words can hurt other children.

“Some people deserve to be bullied.”

Fact: No child’s behavior justifies being hurt or harmed in any manner. All children deserve to be treated with respect and consideration.

“Bullying will make kids tougher.”

Fact: Bullying does not make someone tougher. Research has shown it often has the opposite effect and lowers a child’s sense of self-esteem and self-worth. Bullying often creates fear and increases anxiety for a child.

“Telling a teacher about bullying is tattling.”

Fact: Children need to know the difference between tattling and telling. Tattling is done to get someone in trouble, telling is done to protect someone. The secrecy of bullying only serves to protect the bully and perpetuate the behavior.

“It’s only teasing.”

Fact: Most children are occasionally teased. When teasing does not hurt a child, it isn’t considered bullying. Teasing becomes bullying when a child does not understand that he or she is being teased and the intent of the action is to hurt or harm.

“Boys will be boys.”

Fact: The implication here is that bullying is acceptable, and that it is normal for boys to be physically or verbally aggressive. However, research indicates aggression is a learned behavior, not a natural response.

“Girls don’t bully.”

Fact: Research shows that girls can and do bully. While they do not physically bully targets as often as boys, they will often use verbal and emotional bullying. Bullying for girls escalates during the middle school years.

“Children and youth who are bullied will almost always tell an adult.”

Fact: Adults are often unaware of bullying, in part because many children and youth don’t report it. Most studies find that only 25 to 50 percent of bullied children talk to an adult about the situation. Boys and older children are less likely than girls and younger children to tell adults about bullying. Children may be reluctant to report bullying because they fear retaliation by the children doing the bullying. They also may fear that adults won’t take their concerns seriously or will deal inappropriately with the situation.

“Bullying is easy to recognize.”

Fact: Physical bullying, such as hitting, kicking, and fighting, is easy to recognize since this type of behavior is overt. It is the covert bullying— such as shunning, alienating, and leaving children out on purpose—that is much harder to detect.

“Ignoring bullying will make it go away.”

Fact: This solution sounds easy, but ignoring the problem will not make bullying go away. In fact, it often makes the situation worse, because it sends a message that the target is unable to do anything about the behavior and gives the person bullying emotional satisfaction.

“Children and youth who bully are mostly loners with few social skills.”

Fact: Children who bully usually do not lack friends. In fact, some research finds that these children have larger friendship networks than other children. Importantly, they usually have at least a small group of friends who support and encourage their bullying behavior. Children who bully also generally have more leadership skills than targets of bullying or children not involved in bullying.

“Bullied kids need to learn how to deal with bullying on their own.”

Fact: Some children have the confidence and skills to stop bullying when it happens, but many do not. Moreover, children shouldn’t be expected to deal with bullying on their own. Bullying is a form of victimization and peer abuse. Just as society does not expect victims of other types of abuse (e.g., child maltreatment or domestic abuse) to “deal with the situation on their own,” we should not expect this from targets of bullying. Adults have critical roles to play in helping to stop bullying, as do other children who witness or observe bullying.

“Most children and youth who observe bullying don’t want to get involved.”

Fact: The good news is that most children and youth think that bullying is “not cool” and feel that they should do something if they see it happen. In a recent study of tweens (children ages 9 to 12), 56 percent said that they usually either say or do something to try to stop bullying or tell someone who can help (Brown, Birch, & Kancherla, 2005). These children and youth play a critical role in helping to stop bullying.

This resource was created by PACER Center’s Bullying Prevention Project, an effort that unites, engages, and educates communities nationwide to prevent bullying through creative, relevant, and interactive resources. Find more resources at www.pacer.org/publications/bullying.asp