Newcomers with young children who are being bullied may find it hard to complain to school authorities. First, language may be a problem. They could be worried that they will not be able to verbalize their complaints properly. Second, they might not know how to go about it. There may be school procedures that they are not aware of (do they call, write or meet with the teacher? Or should they contact the principal?). Third, some parents may be scared that they will make matters worse if they complain.
Parents must keep in mind that taking action against bullying is critical. For a child to confess that they are being bullied takes courage. More often than not, the child may have been suffering from it for a while before asking for help. It is crucial for child’s well-being and self-esteem that parents act on the issue promptly and decisively.
Parents should not worry that school authorities will “punish” their child if they complain. Manitoba schools consider bullying a serious matter. The Safe Schools Charter requires all Manitoba schools to have updated safety policies. This includes a code of conduct that protects students against bullying (among other things).
First off, what is bullying?
Bullying is when someone scares or hurts another person on purpose. “It is a behaviour that causes fear, intimidation, humiliation, stress, or other forms of harm to another person’s feelings, self-esteem, body, or reputation. It intends to create a negative school environment for the other person.” (Safe and Caring Schools: Taking Action Against Bulllying).
There are four types of bullying:
- Verbal bullying – using words to hurt someone. Examples are: name-calling, threats, and excessive teasing.
- Social bullying – using friends and relationships to hurt someone. Examples are: excluding others from a group, mobbing, writing graffiti to humiliate or put others down.
- Physical bullying – using the body or objects to cause harm. Examples: hitting, poking, punching, destroying or stealing belongings.
- Cyber bullying – using the internet (social networking sites, websites, email) or text messaging to intimidate or harass others. Examples: sending threatening emails, texts, or instant messages, posting embarrassing videos or photos of others, creating a website to make fun of others.
If your child is a victim of bullying, here’s what you should do :
- Talk to your child calmly. Assure him that it is not his fault. At this point, you may feel angry and distressed but it is important to stay calm to allow your child to open up to you. Provide comfort and make it clear that they have your support.
It is also important to document your child’s account of the bullying incident(s). Note down as much detail as possible. Write down names (including witnesses if there are), dates, places, and the nature of bullying or abuse. If your child sustained bruises or injuries, take photos. If it involves cyberbullying, don’t delete records for evidence. Documentation is important since time and emotions can make us forget important details. It will also make your complaint more compelling.
It would also be helpful to read the school’s Code of Conduct. You should be familiar with all its provisions to know the appropriate action the school should take regarding the issue. You can find it online (for example: Winnipeg School Division Code of Conduct). You can also ask the school for a copy.
- Speak to your child’s teacher. You can tell the teacher your complaint over the phone or through a letter. But if you want an immediate response, ask for a meeting. If you need help with your English, ask a friend or family member to accompany you.
Work with the teacher to resolve the issue. It is best to talk in a calm and non-confrontational way. The teacher is your ally in resolving the problem. Ask for immediate and concrete action. First off, the teacher or school staff should investigate the issue. The situation should be assessed. Give them time to do this. Keep your communication lines open so that the teacher can update you on developments.
Meanwhile, if you are worried that your child is having a hard time coping with the stress, ask the help of the guidance counsellor.
- Call the police. If the bullying is particularly grave or involves online exploitation, or if your child is fearful for his/her safety (if they have been physically assaulted or threatened with bodily harm), contact your local police detachment. You can also report it to Cybertip.ca if it involves online sexual exploitation.
- Talk to the principal. If the bullying continues despite the efforts of the teacher, speak to the principal. Sending a written complaint together with your call is best. You can include your notes about the type and frequency of the bullying to back up your claims. Also, include notes about your initial complaint. This is an important record that can help in the investigation. You may also need it if you have to elevate your concern later on. If you need help with writing the letter, ask your nearest Immigrant Serving Organization for assistance or check out the sample letter below.
- Go to the highest level. If it still doesn’t work, contact the school division superintendent (Manitoba School Divisions and District Contacts). You can also seek support from the Director of Safe Schools Manitoba. You can find contact details here: Safe Schools Manitoba.
Sample letter of complaint to a teacher or principal:
Dear Mr./Ms Teacher’s name /Principal’s name,
I am the mother of (name of your child) in your ____ grade class. I would like to report that my son/daughter is experiencing bullying in school. Last (date), my son/daughter told me that (name of student) pushed him/her in the school corridor. On (date), (name of student) cornered my son/daughter in the playground. He/She said that (name of student) called him/her ugly names. Two of my son’s/daughter’s friends (names of students) were there and witnessed this incident.
On (date) I called (name of teacher) to complain about these incidents. He/She promised that he/she will investigate the matter. It has been two weeks, but I have not received a report yet. Yesterday, my son/daughter came home with a bruise on his/her left leg. A photo is included in this letter. He/She was on his way home when (name of student) tripped him/her outside the school gate.
My son/daughter refused to go to school today. I allowed him/her to stay home, as I am very worried about his/her well-being. I hope that the school will take action this time so that my child can go back to school.
I would like to meet with you to discuss this issue. I can be reached at (telephone number) or email address.
Sources: What is bullying? Bullying Canada.ca; Safe Schools Manitoba; Bullying and Cyberbullying, Royal Canadian Mounted Police; Bullying: How to talk to educators at your child’s school, Stop Bullying Now! HRSA. All accessed June 20, 2017.
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