My son has been physically attacked several times in elementary school – I call it bullying—but the classroom teacher is no help when it happens and the rest of the staff has not been helpful either. What can I do to help my son?
Frantic mother in Queens
Dear Frantic Mother in Queens,
Considering all the attention to combating bullying these days, it is really disheartening to hear that your school still has no clue about how to handle it. The week before schools closed for the winter break was Respect for All week – to highlight activities associated with the Department of Education program to combat bullying.
The goal is to make the schools safe and supportive for all students. Under the Respect for All (RFA) program, schools are to create a school wide atmosphere of respect for all kids regardless of their race, gender, sexual preference, ethnicity, religion, weight or disability. The program calls for training at least one staff member to be the RFA – the one person in school that kids can tell about bullying without fear of reprisals, and who knows how to help. That person's name and where to reach him or her should be posted all over the school. Under city regulations both victims and bystanders are encouraged to bring their story to the designated RFA but they, and their parents, can also report online at www.RespectforAll@schools.nyc.gov.
Once a complaint is made, the school must investigate and there are detailed rules about how in a newly-updated Chancellor's Regulation A-832. Disciplinary measures are found in the Discipline Code. Both the RFA brochure and the Discipline Code should be sent to parents at the beginning of the school year.
Getting back to finding help for your son: Find out if your school has instituted RFA activities and who is in charge of the program. That way you will know who can help you, even if the attacks do not fit those categories listed in the Chancellor's Regulation. Otherwise, report the bullying online.
Take the problem to the principal and guidance counselor and ask that the school's network leader join in a meeting. You should ask for counseling to reassure your son and help him fend off attacks. And there should be a program to work with the bully. Sometimes having the two families meet helps. Sometimes working with the two kids together is helpful.
Still unsatisfactory response? Notify the Office of School and Youth Development at 212-374-6834. Or email the Director of Student Support Programs, Lois Herrera, at Lois Herrera: LHerrer@schools.nyc.gov -(212) 374-6807
Insideschools is concerned about bullying and the cases of sex abuse that have troubled our schools. See Elementary Dad's the informative and sensitive blogpost on this subject.
We would like to hear from other parents about Respect for All activities. Were there posters with information about how to report incidents in your school? Did you get the RFA brochure? Do you know who the designated staff person is? Have bullying incidents been ignored? Helped?
We'd like to hear from you about your school's approach to maintaining a safe space for kids.