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Old 11-17-2012, 12:07 AM   #1
vitani
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Bullying - meeting with parents and teachers

I have a character who's been getting mean texts/Facebook messages from an anonymous source. The texts themselves haven't been threatening, so the police haven't been consulted.

What I'd like to know, is what her school would do in a situation like this. While there's no proof that anybody from the school sent the texts, there is a suspect in mind who is in the same class as my MC.

I have the principal call the parents in for a meeting to set up a plan of action. Is that realistic? And if so, what would be discussed in the meeting?

I do plan to have the principal address each class to talk about the seriousness of bullying. I also plan to have my MC change her telephone number.
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Old 11-17-2012, 02:30 AM   #2
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Please forgive the extreme cynicism of this message:
"I do plan to have the principal address each class to talk about the seriousness of bullying" will result in each class listening intently, nodding in acknowledgement and tutting in dismay at the wickedness of the bullies.
The actual bullies will either: scrupulously note the principal's words, so that they can get as close to the boundaries as possible, without actually, technically crossing them, or, mocking quote the principal's words in their next bullying e-mails.

If there's no proof that it was anyone at the school, and the e-mails weren't actually threatening, I'll bet the meeting and the 'action plan' consists of downplaying the whole thing, telling the MC not to be so 'sensitive' and the principal explaining at great length why the school isn't responsible in any way.

I have only second-hand reports as to how these things are handled, but none of them fill me with hope for your MC.
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Old 11-17-2012, 03:09 AM   #3
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I'm a teacher, and here's how it would go over at our high school.

First of all, I just had to read a whole web-thing about taking cyber-bullying seriously, as a requirement of the district. So that's realistic.

Our principal, before involving parents, would call in the suspect and talk to them at length. I don't know how he does it, but he usually manages to extract confessions even from the toughest students (it's a continuation high school, so the toughest students tend to be the ones wearing ankle bracelets, to give you a sense). He's not going to strong-arm them, either, because a direct confrontation leading to a power struggle never ends well for the person in charge.

Barring a confession or actual proof, he might call the parents and tell them about his concerns, but it's not likely. Parents, 90% of the time, will side with their kid, and if their kid says s/he didn't do it, they will react with outrage towards the principal for suspecting them. So unless you get proof or a confession, there will be no conference.

If you do, then there would absolutely be a conference, although everyone would not be in the conference together. Chances are, the victim and the victim's family would not be there at all, unless the principal opted to do a mediation, which was a popular thing to do in the 90s. I never see it anymore.

Now, it's more likely that the principal and maybe one or two teachers would meet with the offender and his/her parents. They would show all proof, documentation, etc., of the offender's actions. There would be a contract for the offender to sign agreeing to cease all such activity. Consequences would be laid out clearly.

Now, if after this point the offender reoffends, depending on their situation, those consequences might never be enforced. It depends on a lot of possibilities.

1) the victim could take out a restraining order. This would be a big headache for the school, but we actually currently have that situation at our school and it mainly translates to the two kids involved not having any classes together.
2) if the offender is on probation, any kind of aggressive behavior to the victim, whether the original offense that led to probation had to do with the victim or not, would probably lead to the offender spending some time in juvie.
3) if no legal action had been taken prior, it's possible the principal/teachers might not enforce the contract very effectively. It would require more proof that the reoffense was done by the offender, and so forth.

Let me know if you want more information about how all that would work.

As for the principal making an announcement, he might do that, probably at the next assembly, among other announcements. But in a high school, at least, it's unlikely he'd go out of his way to make an announcement to the classes specifically about it. This sort of thing happens all the time, and while they do deal with it as described above, it's rarely seen as something to make a big deal about to the population at large. As the previous poster indicated, it's unlikely that an announcement would have any positive effect on anyone anyway.
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Old 11-17-2012, 05:11 AM   #4
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I second what rosehips said. I worked in a junior high for 35 years and am now retired. In my school the assistant or vice principal would handle the situation, along with input from counselors, teachers (team teachers at my school), along with any other adults who might be able to give input or help, such as a coach, phys-ed teacher, special subject teachers (music, art, etc.) In other words, it's a huge and coordinated effort to put pressure on the bully or bullies.

I also second the fact that parents are usually less than helpful - if they are parents of the bully. (I think it's very hard in general to accept that your child is capable of bullying.)

The asst. principal, though, would take charge of the student's phone - with parental permission - and scroll through it to read messages, look at pictures, etc. (Most parents will allow this - if only to prove how innocent their child is. Sometimes the phone is examined in the presence of the parents. Many a parent has been given a shock seeing the things their child reads or texts, along with pictures that the parent cannot deny exists.)

My school also had a police officer who would be involved in any bullying incident. However, he or she would not take direct action unless criminal activity was also suspected.

I know it's customary to decide that school officials either do nothing, or do too much, or don't know what they're doing and this comes from stories in the media in which a school has over-reacted, or under-reacted, or ignored a terrible problem, etc. But my experience has been none of that.

My school also had an active anti-bullying program which we shored up repeatedly all year long. I (even though I was a science teacher) would read articles to my science classes about bullying and post them on my bulletin board.

Schools aren't perfect; teachers aren't perfect, but in my case we did what we could and we did what we thought was correct. Despite that, there would still be several instances of bullying each year that had to be dealt with. One year it was a group of sixth grade girls who were the culprits! (And in a school with grades 6-8.)
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Old 11-17-2012, 06:06 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jaksen View Post
...Despite that, there would still be several instances of bullying each year that had to be dealt with. One year it was a group of sixth grade girls who were the culprits! (And in a school with grades 6-8.)
I'm surprised that after thirty-five years in education, you'd find that to be surprising, as if it were a fluke. Some of the worst bullies I've ever known, both as a child and an adult, have been "girls" of almost all ages.
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Old 11-17-2012, 12:55 PM   #6
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This could be handled in so many different ways depending on where the school is located and what type of people are involved -- so much so that almost any direction you take it could be plausible.

Yes, it is realistic to have the principal have a conference to set up a plan of action. It could also be just as realistic for the principal to blow the student off. What the principal does will largely depend on his or her relationship with the superintendent, the school board, the teachers union, and the student. Bullying is a hot topic in education right now. Local news outlets do human interest pieces on it all the time. So the principal will be thinking about that. But really, you can take this one anywhere you want to.

But that's just if the school is in the United States. Schools in the U.S. are locally funded (for the most part), so local politics are going to govern -- and local politics can vary so much from place to place that you could set up almost any community situation you want to make it work. But outside the U.S., things might be different. Like, if you're in a country where the schools are tightly controlled by a central government far away from the school, maybe the principal will have to be looking toward standards that are far removed from his or her locality.

take care,

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Old 11-17-2012, 04:52 PM   #7
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Thanks everybody. That's been really helpful - it seems there's a few different angles I could take. Just to address a handful of points.

Quote:
Originally Posted by frimble3 View Post
The actual bullies will either: scrupulously note the principal's words, so that they can get as close to the boundaries as possible, without actually, technically crossing them, or, mocking quote the principal's words in their next bullying e-mails.
I actually laughed when I read this. I'd already written the scene directly after the 'talk', in which my MC gets another text message, basically doing exactly that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rosehips View Post
As for the principal making an announcement, he might do that, probably at the next assembly, among other announcements. But in a high school, at least, it's unlikely he'd go out of his way to make an announcement to the classes specifically about it.
It wouldn't be the norm here either, at least not when I was at school. But there's been a couple of high-profile suicides in Ireland recently, partly caused by cyberbullying, and I'm writing this in light of those. I know that schools will be taking things extra seriously, at least for the next while.

Last edited by vitani; 11-17-2012 at 11:40 PM.
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Old 11-17-2012, 07:32 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silver King View Post
I'm surprised that after thirty-five years in education, you'd find that to be surprising, as if it were a fluke. Some of the worst bullies I've ever known, both as a child and an adult, have been "girls" of almost all ages.

Yes, after 35 years of teaching we all found it surprising - a gang of 11 year old girls ganging up on older kids in grades 7 and 8.

They continued their tirade through the years; some dropped out, some didn't. They are now in high school and the junior high (now a middle school) teachers are breathing sighs of relief. Bullying often comes with a perceived difference in power - I am bigger, more powerful, better than you sort of thing. It's not often younger (girls) against older (boys and girls.)

They did things with sanitary napkins and pads, mostly directed at the older boys. I'd seen a lot, but I only saw that happen once in my 35 years.
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Old 11-20-2012, 06:57 PM   #9
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In the US, many states have instituted laws that specifically define bullying as criminal. NYS has the Dignity for All Students Act. My local district involves law enforcement as appropriate to that. They are also very clear that texts, etc sent outside of school that impact the education of a any student count as part of the offense. Education is impacted if a student is unable to concentrate well enough to learn. Here is a link to our Code of Conduct. http://www.commack.k12.ny.us/Distric...%20Conduct.pdf I hope it helps.
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