Discovering that your child is a victim of bullying in school can be one of the worst feelings for a parent, yet too often we see a distinct lack of help for those who want to act on this.
Parents can be left in the dark about the bullying complaints procedure, and their rights to a satisfactory conclusion, meaning that the bullying can frequently continue.
To this end, we at Match Solicitors have produced a help guide for parents attempting to tackle this issue and give a little more information on the process as a whole.
Are there any tell-tale signs that my child may be being bullied?
Signs may include: sudden aggression or bullying of siblings or other children, difficulty sleeping, nightmares, reluctance to go to sleep, changed eating habits, coming home with damaged or missing clothes or with physical marks. It is always worth noting if your child is suddenly having difficulties with school-work or is reluctant to attend school or to go outside to play.
I have a feeling that my child may be being bullied, but they will not open up to me. Who should I contact in this regard?
This is a difficult issue, and it is highly recommended that, if possible, you speak with your child to ascertain the details of the problem. If this still proves impossible, speaking with your child's form teacher, headteacher or even the school's designated anti-bullying personnel about your concerns would be the best route.
My child has just told me that they are being bullied at school. What are my first steps?
You should speak to your child and try to ascertain more details about what has been happening, who is involved and where within the school the bullying has been taking place.
Explain to the child that bullying is unacceptable. Tell your child that if the bullying persists, your child should make clear to the bully that the behaviour will not be tolerated. Impress on your child that if bullying takes place at school, it should be reported to an appropriate adult such as a teacher or the school nurse. Your child should feel able to discuss concerns/worries with you at home so reassure your child and be supportive.
I have spoken to my child about the issues and feel I need to take things further, who do I speak to first?
Make an appointment to discuss your concerns with your child's form tutor, head of year or head teacher. Approach the matter in a calm and non-confrontational way. You should try and ascertain whether the school teacher has noticed any unusual behaviour and whether there have been any issues with your child and other pupils. Ask the school to keep an eye on your child and the bully and ask for suggestions on how to address the issue.
If appropriate, and depending on the situation, you may want to speak to the parents of the bully to make them aware of what has been happening. Explain the situation non-confrontationally and explain that it is unacceptable. Ask them to take appropriate action to prevent further bullying from taking place.
I am not happy with the outcome of an internal complaints procedure. What should I do now?
The answer to this question depends on what type of school is involved.
If your child attends a state funded school (a community, foundation, voluntary aided or voluntary controlled school - not an academy), you may wish to progress your complaint by approaching the local authority. At this stage, try and ascertain whether the local authority is aware of other cases of bullying at the same school. If there is a problem of bullying within the School and the School has failed to respond appropriately, this will make your case more serious.
If your child is at an Academy, contact the Academy to ask how you can escalate your complaint.
If you remain dissatisfied, you could contact the Local Government Ombudsman. Since July 2012, the Ombudsman is unable to consider complaints about the internal workings of a school and can only consider complaints about the way a local authority has dealt with a complaint.
My child is being bullied on the school network, and I can't access this to see it, what can I do?
If bullying has occurred over the School's internal computer network, the School has an obligation to address this.
Express your concerns to the head teacher at the School and record in writing the steps that will be taken. Schools will have a policy regarding use of computers and cyber-bullying will be a clear breach of this. Schools should conduct an investigation and take disciplinary action if they become aware of bullying.
The school reached a conclusion that bullying had taken place, but no punishment was issued to the offending child and I am worried that they will bully again. What can I do?
You should write to the head teacher in the first instance and make your concerns known.
The School has an obligation to have measures in place to encourage good behaviour and prevent all forms of bullying amongst pupils. If the School has found that bullying has taken place, but no sanction has resulted, you should request a written explanation providing reasons for this decision.
If the situation is not remedied to your satisfaction, consult the published complaints procedure and initiate it.
It may be appropriate to seek legal advice on next steps.
Couldn't taking my child's school to court lead to my child being affected negatively by the school?
If, as a last resort, you have decided to pursue legal action against the School, the School should not treat your child adversely because you are pursuing legal action against it.
If you are pursuing a claim of discrimination against the School, if the School treats your child less favourably because you are pursuing this complaint, the School will have committed unlawful discrimination.
Speak to your legal advisors about this and seek further advice.
My child has been receiving abusive texts from a number he is not familiar with. What should I do?
Take a detailed note of the text messages, the times they were sent and the number they were sent from. Do not delete the messages.
Report the text messages to the mobile provider and ask for the number to be blocked.
If appropriate, report the matter to the Police.
Please note that the above is provided as general information only. Each case will turn on its own facts and before a parent takes any of the above steps, they are well advised to seek legal advice and not to rely on the above as directive advice on dealing with a bullying situation.