Guidlines for Parents

CURB have made some important adjustments to their guidelines for parents.

 

It is still recommended parents continue to gather as much information from their child as possible, listing:

  • What has been happening to them
  • Who is involved
  • How long the situation has been going on for

Once the above has been established parents need to report their child is being bullied to the school without delay.

 

However, parents need to report their child is being bullied:

  • IN WRITING.  DO NOT visit your child’s school in person, especially unannounced and/or telephone your child’s school to do this.  

There is a sample letter for parents to use on the CURB website.

 

CURB does not keep and/or record any personal information/data on children/young people who are victims of bullying and/or their families; CURB, does however keep detailed records which include:

  • How parents handle their child’s reports of bullying
  • How parents report bullying to their child’s school
  • How schools handle reported incidents of bullying
  • How long it takes the school to address bullying issues

In CURB’s experience, parents discovering their child is a victim of bullying in any way, may react differently but all feel shocked and distressed by the revelation.  This can quickly accelerate into anger, especially when they realise their child have been enduring this for a substantial period of time.  Their next step is usually to contact the school to initiate immediate action often calling there in person.

 

CURB understands parents feel visiting or telephoning the school is the quickest way of informing the school of what has been happening to their child.  It also gives them a sense of relief that the school is now aware of their child’s plight and the bullying will stop!  Unfortunately this is not always the case!

 

Parents’ first contact will be with the school’s receptionist/secretary asking to speak with their child’s class or head teacher.  They will probably be questioned as to the nature of the discussion.  It is possible neither teacher is available and a message will be left for them.

 

It is important to note that parents calling and/or visiting the school on an emotional impulse are not in the best position to give a full and rational account of events!

 

CURB will continue to encourage parents to report bullying to the school and as soon as possible.  However, it is no longer felt a verbal contact is always the most effected way to get a result or in certain circumstances a safe avenue to follow, where their child’s welfare is concerned.

 

CURB has detailed records dating back almost three decades that clearly indicate the outcome of verbal reporting can exacerbate the bullying and be a hindrance to ending it!  In many parents’ experience some schools fail to treat bullying with the urgency and priority it should be given and have taken several days to return their calls – if at all!

 

Worryingly, during the period when parents wait to hear from the school, they have had to follow up their initial call with further reports of both physical and psychological attacks on their children.   This is often because the sad fact is not all schools are aware of the correct way to approach bullying.  Many feel to confront the alleged bullies with their actions will bring remorse and apologies.  But denial is almost guaranteed and further torment can follow.  The tormenter/s may even portray their victim in the role of aggressor!  This is why the victim may beg their parents not to pursue the complaint, knowing only too well what the outcome may be!

 

Alarmingly, in a misguided attempt to address the problem it has been known for a school to have taken action by removing the child from their classroom during lesson time without explanation or the knowledge or permission of their parents.  The child has then been catapulted into a room with their persecutor/s!

 

Schools’ mishandling of bullying cases is generating widespread concern for the safety and wellbeing of the children in question, while building tension and mistrust between the parents and child leaving the victim wary of reporting further bullying!

 

It is often as a last resort that the child finally discloses they are being bullied.  This is usually because they feel anxious, isolated and they can no longer cope alone.

 

It is natural for parents to believe and reassure their child that with their intervention the bullying will now stop.  Unfortunately, CURB’s data indicates in many cases to the contrary.  It has been known for the perpetrators on learning their actions have been reported to intensify their abuse.

 

However, it is extremely important for the child to know bullying needs to be reported to their school.  Following CURB’s Guidelines for Parents will help, but don’t forget to always:

 

  • Involve your child in any decision that may take place
  • Keep them informed at each stage with regard to what is happening
  • Allow them to talk about what they want to see happen
  • Encourage them to say how they feel about any decision being made on their behalf
  • It is important for parents to explain to their children, the course of action they have decided to take and the reasons why and what you hope to achieve

It is always beneficial for parents to plan their agenda ahead of their initial and subsequent meetings with schools and where possible, to obtain a copy of their Anti-Bullying Policy via the school’s official website.   If unable to obtain it, request one at the meeting.  If a copy of the policy is not forthcoming, establish when one will be available. 

 

Once in possession of their anti-bullying policy, study it very carefully!

 

Note: Most schools follow the anti-bullying guidelines outlined by local/central governments although some schools may make a few adjustments.   However, if they are not following their own Anti-Bullying Policies, they are not complying with their legal requirements thus putting parents in a position to make a an 'Official Formal Complaint'.

 

It is helpful to write a plan of action before the meeting so that nothing important is forgotten and where possible, to list details of events in date order from when the bullying started. Working with the information the child has already provided can prevent unnecessary anxiety caused by their being asked to revisit those events.

 

The next step is to decide whether their child should also attend the meeting.  The child’s wishes and feelings are paramount throughout the proceedings and must be respected at every step, therefore this should be discussed with them keeping the discussion as light-hearted as possible, accepting their decision as final.

 

It is very important that all meetings/conversations with any staff member should be followed up in writing with confirmation of:

  • Who was present and their positions i.e. Mr. A Headteacher Parent/s etc.
  • The points discussed
  • Agreed action plan to address the bullying

It is also important to consider beforehand what actions parents wish to be taken; how they wish the school to handle the situation.  For example:

  • Should the Headteacher just have a word with the bullies in the hope that this will resolve the situation?

N.B. Sadly records show the above approach is generally unsuccessful.

 

  • Should the Headteacher inform the parents of the named bully/bullies in writing that serious allegations have been made about their children’s behaviour towards another pupil?
  • Should this include the request that the parents discuss the matter with their child informing them if their child continues to bully another pupil they could face after school detention and if this fails, possibly exclusion from school?

Once adults are informed a child is being persecuted in any way, it is their responsibility to take control of the situation.

 

Parents should make it clear during the initial meeting with the child's school whether they give or refuse their consent for their child to be questioned regarding the bullying, with or without their presence.  No child needs the additional fear of being interrogated and/or made to confront their tormentors alone because their parents have complained.

 

With regard to the parents of the bully, it is the schools responsibility to make them aware of their child's behaviour and they will be held accountable for their child's actions!

 

Documentation of everything is extremely important but many people have difficulty taking notes and cannot always find someone to assist them in this area. 

Therefore one solution is for parents to use a Dictaphone to record the meeting.  Most schools are quite happy for them to do this as long as they receive a copy of the recording and written contents of same.

 

Caution - It is imperative the child is not kept home from school while waiting for the bullying issue to be addressed.

 

If at any point the child becomes reluctant to attend school because of the bullying and/or the parents are concerned about the psychological effects bullying is having on their child, keeping the child away from school is not the answer. 

 

Parents of a pupil whose absence from school has not been authorised can face prosecution!  Most schools or local education authorities do not acknowledge bullying as a legitimate reason for absenteeism.

 

Instead, an appointment should be made with their family doctor.  It is very important that the G.P. (General Practitioner) is made aware of the situation so that by listening to both the child and the parents, an assessment can be made as to what would be most beneficial for all concerned.

 

The doctor may decide that a period of absence may be needed and issue a medical certificate to cover this or, if the case merits it, also refer the child to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).  The advisers there, experienced in dealing with such issues and communicating with young people, are an important tool in helping the child to cope.

 

Referral to CAMHS also documents the severity of the effect the bullying has had on the child and may be of use at a later date.

 

In the event of the child being physically assaulted, a visit to the nearest Accident and Emergency Unit may be required.

 

It is important the medical staff’ are given as much detail as possible of the assault in order to give effective treatment but also in case the information is required for future reference.

 

In every case of assault requiring medical treatment, the police need to be informed.  Depending on the severity of the injury the hospital may contact the police.  In some incidents it may be prudent to photograph any physical evidence of assault.

 

If the hospital does not report the assault then the onus is on the parents to do so.  There are a couple of points to note:

  • When contacting the local Police Station parents should state they wish to report an assault and request either an appointment to attend the police station or a home visit
  • Document the time and date of the call
  • A note should be taken of the officer's Name, Rank and Number, bearing in mind, if contact is via the telephone, the first point of contact may be a civilian. It is still important to take their name and position. 

Finally, an incident number should be given by the civilian/police officer keep this number safe.

 

Again, follow-up with a written account and also document all subsequent interviews with the police, again ensuring you have each officer’s name, rank and number, plus any action taken or advice given.

 

Also if a Dictaphone is needed, then notification of this and an accompanying explanation should be made prior to the interview.  Many people have short term memory problems, especially under stressful conditions such as this and often miss important information.  Additionally, it is always useful to have an accurate account to which to refer at a later date.

 

CURB is often asked if the police can go into school and question bullies.  The simple answer is ‘No’.  In reality not all areas of bullying are classed as a crime.

 

When bullying happens on school premises involving a serious physical assault, the police may then get called in.  However, it is usually the school’s last resort!

 

Some forms of bullying, whether they happen on school property or in the community, are a crime and they should be reported to the police, especially if a child is a victim of:

  • Assault
  • Theft
  • Harassment and intimidation
  • Threatening behaviour
  • Abusive telephone calls, emails or text messages, (but it has to be more than one phone call, text message etc. to class as crime and has to happen for a prolonged period of time)
  • Sexual assault
  • Anything involving hate crimes

Parents have questioned if Headteachers or other staff members have a legal right to remove their child from their lesson, question them and make them write statements relating to an incident on school premises without first notifying and obtaining parents’ consent and if yes, shouldn’t the child have an appropriate adult present during questioning?

 

Parents also question the legality of compelling a child to confront their tormentors without their parents’ permission.

 

Some schools have responded by explaining "they are acting in ‘loco parentis’" i.e. using the authority given them to act in the child’s best interest on behalf of the parents in their absence.

 

Translated from the Latin as ‘in place of a parent’, this is a widely accepted practise under English law in circumstances where adults other than the parents have care of the child.

 

There are two statutory provisions that relate to the role of teachers acting ‘in loco parentis’:

  • The Children’s Act 1989 provides that teachers have a duty of care towards the children under their supervision
  • Promoting the safety and welfare of the children in their care.   The level of this duty of care is measured as being that of a ‘reasonable parent

When a parent leaves their child at the school gates they are in effect agreeing to allow the teachers and other staff at the school to act ‘in loco parentis’.

 

However, the interpretation states they are acting in the best interest of the child but not allowing violation of a student’s civil liberties. There is no legislation, regulation or ruling in law that states school staff’ have a legal right to question any pupil, especially if a parent has refused consent for them to do so in their absence.

 

However, parents need to understand that in order for schools to run efficiently and deal with day to day issues, there will often be occasions when discussions need to be held with a pupil and to request parental consent each time would be unworkable.   Therefore, parents need to clarify from the outset why and in what circumstances they withhold their consent.  

 

If they do not wish their child questioned by teachers/staff relating to bullying issues or being questioned regarding an incident that may directly or indirectly involve their child without parents being present, then they must make this known.

 

In the school environment it is not considered necessary for an appropriate adult to be present when a child is questioned regarding an everyday issue.  But when in relation to a bullying matter, it is essential this takes place following an acceptable format.   It is not acceptable practice to force a confrontation between the victim and their persecutors without the appropriate support!  This is not the correct way of tackling bullying!

 

Parents, the following two points are of great importance: -

  • The safety and wellbeing of your child
  • Document everything

 

 

I would like to thank all CURB's volunteers, especially Ann Ward, John Hardhall, Kerry Knight and Amy Thomas for their continuous support and assistance!

 

God Bless

Maureen Booth-Martin 

 

CURB

(Children Under Risk from Bullying)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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