Bullied kid

Steps to take to protect kids

The United States government identifies bullying as a form of discrimination, which means you have the right to speak up when your child becomes a victim of any form of harassment.

Whether your child is a victim of cyberbullying or bullying on the school yard, learn about your parental rights against bullying.

Ask about bullying

Long before bullying starts, make it your mission to ensure that your child's school has a school-wide no bullying policy. It is your parental right to ask that the details are communicated frequently with students, parents and school staff.

Be sure to also talk with your kids about the definition of bullying so your youngster has a clear understanding about the signs, meaning and impact that bullying can have on everyone, from cyberbullying to physical bullying. Be sure to make it clear that your child will not be in trouble for sharing incidents of bullying, whether firsthand or as a bystander to minimize the damage bullying can have.

Whether you shoot off a quick email or bring it up at parent-teacher conferences, ask your child's teacher about any signs that your child is being bullied. Whether or not your child has come home with complaints about bullying, it is your job as a parent to communicate with your child's teacher about this growing bully epidemic.

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Identify anti-bullying goals

Work with your child's teacher, school psychologist and other faculty to recognize your child's unique needs in regards to bullying. Start by including anti-bullying goals that are relevant to bullying in your child's Individualized Education Program (IEP), such as social skills work, speech and language skills and self-awareness skills. The goal is for your youngster's educators to help improve his understanding of social skills, like taking turns or thinking before acting, teaching self-advocacy skills so that he can learn to stand up for himself and walk away and self-awareness about your child's own disability or challenges all with one goal: To make your child less susceptible to bullying.

File a formal complaint

When bullying issues based on discrimination in any form aren't addressed, it's time to do less talking and more doing by filing a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights. As a general rule, complaints of discrimination must be filed within 180 days of the last act of discrimination, however, a waiver can be requested. You will be required to read two documents plus print and sign a consent form, which you will mail to the Enforcement Office for the state in which the school or institution in violation is located.

The Office of Civil Rights will then evaluate your complaint and determine whether it can investigate the grievance based on alleged violation or whether the complaint was filed on time. You may be contacted by the Office of Civil Rights if they need more information, at which time you have 20 days to respond. When determined that it will investigate your complaint, you will receive a letter of notification. Upon the Office's determination, you will receive a letter of their findings. In cases where the Office determines that a violation was made, they will attempt to negotiate a voluntary resolution agreement.

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Whether your child is a victim of cyberbullying or you'd like to reduce the likelihood your child will be bullied, knowing your parental rights against bullying is the most important step to fighting unnecessary suffering.

More about bullying

How to know if your child is a cyberbully
Mean girls, tween girls: What parents can do
Kids' resources to fight back against bullying

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