How to talk to your child's school about bullying

Tips for parents

UNICEF/China/2019/Li Manwei

How to talk to your child's school about bullying

School leaders and teachers are important allies for preventing and addressing bullying. Bullying often takes place in school classrooms and hallways, where teachers and administrators can intervene.

But the classroom is also an ideal setting for educating children about bullying and its harmful consequences, and shaping a culture of respect and inclusion. Here’s how you can work with your child’s school to address bullying:

Know your rights

Children have the right to go to school and learn in safety. Schools and teachers play an important role in protecting children. The adults who oversee and work in educational settings have a duty to create environments that support and promote children’s dignity, development and protection. 

These rights are explicitly written in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention calls for education to respect the dignity of children and their right to participate in school life. It also calls for measures to protect children from all forms of physical, sexual or mental violence.

Starting with prevention

How can I work with my child’s school to prevent bullying?

Bullying prevention through the use of dedicated lessons, meetings and/or curriculum has been shown to effectively reduce bullying in schools. Here’s how you can talk to your child’s teacher about starting with prevention:

  1. Establish relationships with school employees. Get to know your child’s teacher and other adults in leadership roles at the school to build trust and start a dialogue. Let them know that you want to work with them to foster an anti-bullying culture.
  2. Find like-minded parents. Joining or establishing a parents’ group, parent-teacher association or school safety committee creates a defined space for you to share resources and concerns with teachers and school leadership.
  3. Volunteer at the school. Look for other areas in the school where you can help create a positive climate, such as extracurricular activities or school events. 
  4. Ask about training for teachers and students. Curricula and lesson plans are a great way to teach children about what bullying is and how to prevent it. These lessons can expand to digital literacy and safe behaviour online. Students can also learn how to improve emotional skills, create inclusive environments, and what to do as bystanders.

Responding to bullying

How can I work with my child’s school if my child is being bullied?

  1. Do your research. Find out if the school has a response mechanism or policy in place for bullying. Make sure there is a support system for both your child and the child who is bullying. 
  2. Allow the school to take action. Allow schools to take responsibility for dealing with bullying in line with school rules and regulations.
  3. Talk to school counselors. If your child’s school has a counselor, talk to him or her about your child’s experience to determine the best way forward for your child.
  4. Ask about training. Work with your school to set up a team of teachers and adults who are trained to identify and address all types of bullying, including cyberbullying. 

How should I work with the school if my child is bullying others?

  1. Work with the school to determine consequences. If a child who bullies is not disciplined for his/her actions, he/she may think that similar actions will have no consequences in the future. Talk to your school about appropriate consequences for your child, proportional to the offense. Discipline should always be immediate, non-violent and focussed on correcting the behaviour and rehabilitation (not humiliation or punishment). 
  2. Talk to school counselors. If your child’s school has a counselor, set up a meeting to discuss your child’s behaviour. One-on-one meetings between your child and the school counselor may also be helpful.