How to Respond to a Teacher Who Bullies

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The majority of teachers your child will encounter are good at what they do. In fact, many teachers go beyond what is expected. But, there are teachers who do not handle their responsibilities well and even some teachers who bully their students. Instead of using proper discipline procedures or effective classroom management techniques, they use their power to condemn, manipulate or ridicule students.

When the bullying is physical, most parents do not hesitate to report incidents. But, when the bullying is emotional or verbal, parents are not sure what to do. They fear to make things worse for their child. While this concern is valid, it is never a good idea to ignore bullying. Here are ten ideas for addressing bullying teachers.

Document All Bullying Incidents

Record everything that happens including dates, times, witnesses, actions, and consequences. For instance, if the teacher berates your child in front of the class be sure to write down the date, the time, what was said, and which students were present. If other students participate in the bullying as a result of the teacher’s actions, be sure to include that information too.

If there is any physical bullying, cyberbullying, or harassment based on race or disability, report this to your local police immediately. Depending on the area where you live, these types of bullying may be considered crimes.

Reassure and Support Your Child

Talk to your child about school and what is taking place. Be supportive and really listen. Ask how your child wants the situation handled.

Your first priority is to help your child heal from the bullying.

Consequently, do not hesitate to connect with a counselor. Also, have your child evaluated by a pediatrician to check for signs of depression, anxiety issues, and sleep problems. Watch for signs of bullying and remember that kids often don’t report bullying behavior.

Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem

When dealing with bullying, it is important for kids to see their strengths. Encourage them to focus on things other than bullying like favorite activities or new hobbies. Also, do not spend too much time talking about bullying. Doing so, keeps them focused on the negative in their life. Instead, help them see that there are other things in life to be happy about. This will help build resilience.

Talk With Your Child First

It is never a good idea to have a meeting with a teacher or principal without telling your child. Doing so can embarrass kids if they find out about the situation after the fact. Additionally, kids need to be prepared emotionally if the meeting does not go well and the teacher retaliates. Never do anything regarding this situation without touching base with your child first.

Follow the Chain of Command

Remember, the closer people are to the problem, the more likely they will be able to take swift, effective action. If you go straight to the top, you will most likely be asked whom you have talked to about the situation and what have you done to remedy the situation.

Exhaust all possibilities for resolving this issue at the lower levels first.

Additionally, if you have documentation from your interactions, it will be hard to ignore what you have to say when you do get to the top.

Consider Meeting With the Teacher

Depending on the severity and frequency of the bullying, you may want to go directly to the teacher. Many times, a teacher meeting will resolve the problem if you take a cooperative approach when discussing the situation. Try to keep an open mind and listen to the teacher’s perspective. Avoid screaming, accusing, blaming, and threatening to sue. Instead, allow the teacher to talk.

Express Your Concerns

While it is important to express your concerns, be sure you also allow others to engage in the conversation. For instance, if your child seems to be afraid in class, mention this fact. Then ask the teacher what might be going on. This step allows teachers to talk about what they see. Additionally, teachers are less likely to get defensive if you are open to hearing their perspective.

Take Your Complaint Higher

If the situation doesn’t improve or the bullying is severe in nature, make sure you go to the teacher's supervisor or the building administrator. Sometimes teachers will rationalize their behavior, blame the student, or refuse to admit any wrongdoing.

Other times, bullying is much too severe to risk speaking with a teacher directly. If this is the case, ask to meet with the principal in person. Share your documentation and discuss your concerns. You also could request a classroom transfer at this point. Not all principals will honor such requests, but some do.

Continue up the Chain of Command

Unfortunately, some principals will let teachers who bully go unchallenged or deny that bullying is taking place. If this is the case, it is time to file a formal complaint with the superintendent or the school board. Keep good records of all your communications including e-mails, letters, and documentation of telephone calls.

Do Not Let Bullying Go on Indefinitely

If the principal, superintendent, or school board drags their feet in responding to you, then consider getting legal counsel. In the meantime, investigate other options for your child like a transfer to another school, private school, homeschooling, and online programs.

Leaving your child in a bullying situation can have dire consequences. Make every effort to either end the bullying or remove your child from the situation.

Never assume the bullying will end without intervention nor should you expect that your child will get over it or be fine.

A Word From Verywell

Overall, bullying by a teacher can be scary and overwhelming for students, especially because of the power that teachers have in the classroom. As a result, do not delay in taking action on behalf of your child. And don't stop fighting for your child even if you do not get immediate results. With persistence, you will make the situation better for your child and then the healing can begin.

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Lamb J, Pepler DJ, Craig W. Approach to bullying and victimization. Can Fam Physician. 2009;55(4):356-60.

  2. Can I Sue the School for a Teacher's Abuse or Harassment of My Child?

By Sherri Gordon
Sherri Gordon, CLC is a published author, certified professional life coach, and bullying prevention expert.