A Parent’s Role in Preventing Bullying, Harassment, Intimidation in Public Schools

Every child needs a safe space in order to learn and interact with their peers in a healthy and supportive way. In 2002, Washington State adopted a law, RCW 28A.300.285, prohibiting harassment, intimidation and bullying in every school. In 2007, it was amended to include electronic forms of harassment, intimidation and bullying. As of August 1, 2011, all Washington school districts must adopt a model policy and procedure standard developed by the Office of the Education Ombudsman, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Washington School Directors Association. Click here to view the model policy. Click here to read the model procedure.

Bullying is not something schools and families should take lightly. Bullying is a repeated negative behavior that takes advantage of a less-powerful person, and sometimes even makes the child who is bullied feel at fault. Hitting, name calling, shunning and shaming are all forms of bullying. So are spreading rumors, gossiping and making threats online.

Is Your Child Bullying or Being Bullied?

Click on the following link to take a quiz published by USA Today and created by the Josephson Institute of Ethics.

The Facts

More than one in four eighth-graders reported in the 2008 Washington State Healthy Youth Survey that they were bullied in the past month. However, research shows that when targeted students are prepared, know how to respond appropriately, and seek immediate adult help, the bullying action will stop.

Bullying, harassment and intimidation acts can be related to physical appearance, personal traits, race, ethnicity, skin color, form of dress, disability actual or perceived sexual orientation, and gender expression or identity or other characteristics of the victim and they can occur before, after, and during school. It can also take place online, also known as cyberbullying, and over cell phones with text messaging.

Washington State’s Definition of Bullying

RCW 28A.300.285 defines bullying and harassment as: "Harassment, intimidation, or bullying" means any intentional electronic, written, verbal, or physical act, including but not limited to one shown to be motivated by any characteristic in RCW 9A.36.080(3), or other distinguishing characteristics, when the intentional electronic, written, verbal, or physical act:

  1. Physically harms a student or damages the student's property; or
  2. Has the effect of substantially disrupting a student's education; or
  3. Is so severe, persistent, or pervasive that it creates an intimidating or threatening educational environment; or
  4. Has the effect of substantially disrupting the orderly operation of the school.

Nothing in this section requires the affected student to actually possess a characteristic that is a basis for the harassment, intimidation, or bullying.

Parent/Guardian’s Role to Stop Bullying

Here are some actions you can take at school and at home to help keep your child safe.

At School:

  • Learn school and district policies and procedures
  • Encourage school to provide trainings to staff, students and parents
  • Do not confront the bully or bully’s family
  • Report the incident to the school principal, using the Incident Report Form.
  • This report automatically triggers an investigation
  • If continued safety is an issue, request an immediate safety plan while the investigation proceeds
  • If dissatisfied with the safety plan, meet again with the school principal
  • If unhappy with the conclusions of the investigation, appeal to the school district Compliance Officer. This can be further appealed to the Superintendent and then to the School Board
  • Ensure appropriate supervision of your youth at school

Note: Due to federal student privacy regulations (FERPA), the school is not permitted to tell you what the consequences are for the bully if the investigation proves the incident report to be accurate.

At Home:

  • Model compassion and respect. Children learn by imitating parents and adults.
  • Do not be impulsive.
  • Do not blame your youth for bringing it on.
  • Remember that the home is the safe refuge.
  • Spend extra time, give extra support.
  • Teach safety strategies to your child, both for the target and the bystander.
  • Reminder that hitting back or getting even may result in new troubles, such as suspensions.
  • Encourage youth to tell the aggressor that this is bullying and is not appropriate.
  • Encourage youth to walk away to a safer place.
  • Encourage youth to tell an adult who will listen.
  • Ask: What is being done to him/her? Who is doing it? What has he/she done to try to resolve the problem? What does he/she need from the adult to get the bully to quit?
  • Identify safe places – classroom, by adults, rejoin a group of peers.
  • Nurture and educate.
  • Talk about what bullying is and why there are bullies. (The event was not about him/her, but more about the bully.)
  • Instill self confidence.
  • Identify and encourage the youth’s talents and attributes.
  • If needed, address grooming and clothing issues.
  • Emphasize that the school staff cares about safety and has a process to assist.
  • Let youth be part of the process in resolving the problem.
  • Encourage participation in physical training, sports or activity groups outside of school.
  • Ask school counselor about availability of services to address social skills, if needed.

"Preventing Bullying" handout

Could your child be a bully?

  • If you find out your youth is the bully, many of the items previously listed are still relevant.
  • Be proactive and work with the school counselor who can offer additional support by working with your youth individually or in small group to address the inappropriateness of bullying and alternatives to bullying.
  • Click here for an easy tip sheet for your child.

What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is when one child or teen is targeted by another in a threatening, embarrassing, or harassing way using the Internet (Facebook, MySpace, blogs, etc), interactive digital technologies, or cell phones. The motives of cyberbullies are often different than "schoolyard" bullying, and therefore different solutions and reactions are necessary. Refer to the Cyberbullying Resources below that can help you keep your child safe when using computers and cell phones.

Anti-Bullying Resources for Grades K-12

  • Bullying at School: What a family can do - OEO Publication available in English, Cambodian, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Somali, Spanish and Vietnamese
  • Bullies and Victims: Information for Parents - short handout for parents regarding bullying.
  • Bullying Resource List
  • OSPI Safety Center - under Bullying and Harassment, sample procedures and policies are provided.
  • Committee for Children - a nonprofit that works globally to prevent bullying, violence, and child abuse. Many articles and resources on bullying are available.
  • Find Youth Info at BullyingInfo.org - a government site for bullying prevention and response. This resource rich site includes numerous videos, articles, strategies and reports.
  • Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network is one of the best resources available to families, students and educators regarding LGBTQ youth issues, including bullying. Research, policies, tools, tips and much more are provided.
  • Great Schools - Search the term “bullying” and find numerous resources on this site that encourages families to be involved in their children’s education.
  • Kids Health - resources on your child’s health and development. Search bullying and find numerous resources to answer your questions regarding bullying.
  • Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center - Includes resources regarding how to work with your child’s school and how to discuss cyberbullying with your kid. Click on “Parents & Public.”
  • Ophelia Project’s parents/guardian’s resource page - provides tools, strategies and solutions to adults and youth who are affected by relational and other non-physical forms of aggression. The link provided brings you directly to the family resource page, which provides resources online and documents that can be printed out.
  • Pacer’s Center National Center for Bullying Prevention - families can learn more about program and resources to help bullying prevention using this interactive site for kids (grades K-5) and teens (grades 6-12).
  • Safe Schools Coalition - The Safe Schools Coalition is an international public-private partnership in support of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth, that is working to help schools - at home and all over the world - become safe places where every family can belong, where every educator can teach, and where every child can learn, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.
  • Stop Bullying Now - information on bullying and what you can do to stop it are presented in webisodes, cartoons, games and more. Click on the tab “What Adults Can Do” and you will have a variety of resources at your fingertips.
  • Wrightslaw - a rich resource for accurate, reliable information regarding special education law, education law, and advocacy for children with disabilities. The link directs you to information on bullying including articles and previous legal cases.

Cyberbullying Resources

"Tips for Cyberbullying Saftey & Prevention" handout

  • Cyber Tipline - parents can report crimes against children, mainly those crimes that have something to do with sexual exploitation. This website has links to other parent resources on cyber bullying.
  • Facebook Safety: 5 Quick Steps - Walks you through setting up Facebook privacy settings. You can also got to Facebook and click on Help Center. There is a lot of information here on how to report misuse of Facebook entries and how to block messages. Their pages include information for parents about what Facebook is and does and how to teach or monitor the safety of their youth on the Internet.
  • GoGoStat Parental Guidance - a free social media application that enables parents to monitor potentially unsafe activity on Facebook. Parental Guidance notifies you when your child’s personal profile could compromise your family security or privacy, tells you who is “friended” (including their ages and locations), when messages are referencing certain risky terms, and if threatening or risky photos are posted.
  • I Keep Safe - an interactive site provides tips on keeping your child safe online even if you’re not a computer expert.
  • NET CETERA - a campaign that provides families information to help kids make smart, safe decisions online. Information includes many helpful videos and tools that can be used in a presentation regarding keeping our youth safe online.
  • Net Smartz - resources for parents/guardians, kids, teens, law enforcement, and educators and is also translated to Spanish. There are videos on cyberbullying and plenty of information on how to keep your kids safe on the internet.
  • Stop Cyberbullying - Learn more about what cyberbullying is, what you can do, and how the law defines it.
  • OSPI Safety Center - under Bullying and Harassment, sample procedures and policies are provided.