9 Tips for Talking to the Principal About Bullying

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School bullying can be an overwhelming issue to deal with, especially when your child is the victim. Aside from trying to help your child navigate the situation and overcome the pain, you are also faced with how to address the issue with the school.

Many times, the first person you will speak with is the teacher. However, for older students, there may not be a specific teacher for you to contact, especially if the bullying occurred on the bus or at lunch. This means you have to go to the principal. Consequently, many parents find the very thought of this step very unsettling. But, it need not be stressful. Follow these nine tips for talking with your child’s principal and everything will progress smoothly.

Discuss the Bullying Face-to-Face 

When dealing with something as significant as bullying, it is important that you set a meeting with the principal. Try to avoid e-mail because it can be misinterpreted too easily. Instead, ask for an early morning meeting. Meeting in the morning is usually more productive because the principal may feel more refreshed. You also should avoid gossiping about the bully or posting information on social media. This just muddies the waters and puts your child at risk for more bullying. 

Treat the Principal as Your Ally 

Go into the meeting believing that the principal wants to help you and your child. Even if you disagree on some aspects of the situation, find a way to forge a partnership where your child can be protected from further bullying. Also, avoid blaming the principal for the bully's decisions. Instead, focus on how the principal intends to keep your child safe.

Be Honest and Respectful

Avoid being critical or blaming the school for your child’s treatment. Keep in mind that while schools can guide students, they still make their own choices. The person responsible for the bullying is the bully, not the principal. While the school has a responsibility to keep your child safe, being overly critical or judgmental will derail the conversation. You run the risk that the principal will focus more on your tone and your words rather than on the issue at hand. 

Leave Your Baggage at Home 

Many times, parents mistakenly let something that happened in their childhood cloud their thinking, especially if a childhood bullying situation was mishandled. Be careful not to let your negative experiences get in the way of protecting your child. Focus on your child's situation and refrain from assuming that history will repeat itself.

Come Prepared

Make some notes on what you want to say. Because bullying is an emotional topic, it can be easy to get distracted or forget what you want to say. As a result, be sure you jot down the key points you want to address with the principal. This way, if you get nervous or upset, you have something to refer to that will help keep you on track.

Provide Details

It is important that you explain in detail what you are seeing and how it is affecting your child. Share any documentation you have of the bullying including the witnesses to the bullying, what was said or done, and how it impacted your child. The more factual information you can provide, the better. Try to avoid getting too emotional when sharing the details. It is important that the principal hear what you have to say and not be distracted by an emotional encounter.

Listen to the Principal’s Perspective 

As hard as it is to listen when all you really want to do is be heard, it will benefit you and your child in the long run. And, if you do not understand any of the information provided, or if it doesn’t match what your child told you, be sure to ask questions. Just try to do so respectfully. The goal is that both you and the principal can find some common ground on the situation.

Ask About the Next Steps 

Find out what the principal plans to do when your meeting ends. For instance, will he be talking with the bully or interviewing bystanders? What about changing your child’s schedule, moving her locker or providing her with a mentor? Remember, the goal is that your child is protected. Do not leave the meeting without some understanding of what happens next. Meanwhile, do not expect to know the full details of what will happen to the bully. This type of information is usually kept confidential due to the fact that it involves a minor. What's more, your focus should not be on getting justice. Focus instead on your child's healing and protection. Be sure to document what was said, the date, the time and any other pertinent information.

Set a Time to Follow Up 

Many times, bullying will not end right away. In fact, once you have reported it, bullying may escalate and get worse. Be prepared for this and keep the lines of communication open with your child. It also takes time to investigate the bullying and implement consequences. As a result, you want to have a date on the calendar to check in the with principal again. This way, you can ask for the status of the situation and find out what the school is doing to end the bullying. You also can share how your child is doing and make adjustments to the plan the school has put in place.