· Talk to your child’s teacher and find out if they have observed any problems in the classroom or playground and ask them to keep their eyes open for any reason your child might be changing their behaviour (insist your report be kept confidential).
· Talk to the school counsellor to alert them that there have been behavioural/attitude changes in your child and you are trying to find out why. Ask them to sit down with your child to discuss if bullying is going on (insist your report be kept confidential).
· Document everything that happens (the who, where, when, what and why) – keep a diary and photos if there is physical or material damage and prepare a list of questions.
· Meet with the school administration, ideally the school principal, pose your prepared questions and ask to see their school policy on bullying (insist that it be in writing) – the anti-bullying policy will explain how the school deals with incidents of bullying and what procedures are in place for investigating it. If your child is reluctant for you to contact the school and is afraid that this will make the bullying worse, ask how the school can deal with the issue sensitively.
· Most incidents can be dealt with in meetings between a teacher (principal, tutor, year-head or another designated person) and the students involved. Warnings are very often enough to end the bullying, if followed up by frequent monitoring. If the bullying persists, or is serious enough to warrant it, parents of bullies can be asked to meet with school management. The school may be able to adopt the role of mediator between the families, if this is deemed appropriate.
· If you volunteer at your child’s school, act as another pair of eyes and ears and watch to see if another child bullies your child or other children. If you are close by, tell the perpetrator that their behaviour is bullying which is unacceptable at school or elsewhere. If at a distance, report what you see to the teacher;
· If a physical or verbal threat has been made to your child, report it to the school and school safety officer, if there is one, at once. In the absence of a safety officer, contact the Gardaí who will put you in contact with the closest one;
· If appropriate action is not being taken or the problem persists, write a letter to your child’s teacher and copy the school administration outlining the problem again – be specific as to dates, events, evidence etc.; arrange a meeting to find out what the school is doing about the situation and agree to a timetable and/or actions that the school will take; if the schedule is not adhered to, write to the school and send a copy to the School Board outlining your concerns and provide the schedule and timetable which the school had agreed to adhere to. Here is a sample letter to help with your complaint.
If the matter cannot be resolved at school, you may contact the Department of Education and Science as follows:
Procedures for lodging complaints on bullying in primary schools @ (090) 6483722;
Bullying in post-primary schools @ (057) 9325411
Or Department @ (01) 8896400 & Locall 1890 402 040