How to Respond to a Teacher Who Bullies

Learn how to address bullying when it involves your child's teacher

Young schoolchildren and gym teacher at school
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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; 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 making 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 the issue.

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. And 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 are often crimes.

Reassure and support your child.

Talk to your child about school and what is taking place. Remember, your first priority is to help your child. 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.

Help your child see his strengths. Encourage him to focus on things other than the bullying like favorite activities or new hobbies. Do not spend too much time talking about the bullying. Doing so, keeps your child focused on the negative in his life. Instead, help him see that there are other things in life to be happy about. This will help build resilience.

Talk with your child first before attempting to resolve the issue.

It is never a good idea to have a meeting with a teacher or principal without telling your child. You may embarrass your child if he finds out about the situation after the fact. Additionally, your child needs to be prepared emotionally if the meeting does not go well and the teacher retaliates.

Follow the chain of command.

Remember, the closer someone is to the problem, the more likely he 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. You want to be sure you have exhausted 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 requesting a 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.

Express your concerns but 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 she thinks may be going on. This step allows the teacher to talk about what she sees. Additionally, it is less likely she will get defensive if you are open to hearing her perspective.

Take your complaint higher if the situation doesn’t improve or the bullying is severe in nature.

Sometimes teachers will rationalize their behavior, blame the student or refuse to admit any wrongdoing. Other times the 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 to go up the chain of command if you do not get results. 

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 the bullying continue 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. Be sure you make every effort to either end the bullying or remove your child from the situation. Never assume the bullying will end without intervention.