The Matzav Shmoooze: My Child Is Being Bullied In School And No One Seems To Care!

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By Dr. Rona Novick, PhD, Dean of the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration at Yeshiva University and holds the Raine and Stanley Silverstein Chair in Professional Ethics and Values

Parents and schools share a common purpose — they want to educate the children in their care and ensure they grow to be healthy adults. However, there is one place where parents and schools diverge in their goals. The parents are, rightfully, always looking to protect the interests of their own child. The school though, must protect the interests of all the children. Most of the time these two things go together, but sometimes, especially in bullying situations, they may diverge.

Teachers and administrators are often confronted by hurting parents whose child is being bullied and they feel the school is not doing enough to stop it. There are several difficult truths that must be confronted in this situation. The first is that the very best bullying prevention programs being rolled out in schools are accomplishing somewhere between a thirty to forty percent reduction in bullying, in spite of all their resources. Basically this means that even if your school is doing everything they should be doing, the international standard suggests there will still be quite a lot of bullying that parents and children will have to deal with.

The next difficult truth is that not all problems are bullying; some of the problems are aggression-related and are not bullying. These problems will not respond to anti-bullying programs.

It is important to realize that while there are things your child’s school can and should be doing, it is not necessarily going to solve your child’s problem. A parent might say, “I need my child isolated,” or, “I need total attention and supervision provided to my child in order for x, y, or z to happen.” A school cannot do that without sacrificing the service that it provides to all the other students in the building.

There is also a legal issue at play here. Very often parents will not know and will never be able to know how much a school is doing to deal with a bullying problem. By law, schools are prohibited from sharing information about other students. To better understand this issue, you need to think about how you would feel if the school shared information about your child with other parents, whether it is related to discipline, academics, or personal situations. A school might be taking very appropriate and serious actions toward a known bully, but they can’t tell you that.

Another complication is that most bullying is witnessed by children and not adults, so a lot of the information that comes to a school comes to them by hearsay. Can and should a school take action against a student based on the reports of other students when no adults saw it? Doing so sets a dangerous precedent. What if a group of students ganged up against your child, went to the administration, and said your child did x, y, or z? Based on those rumors with no physical evidence and no staff witnessing it, would you want the school to take action? That is the dilemma many schools find themselves in. Sometimes, schools may be hearing all kinds of information and are investigating the situation. It may look as if schools are doing nothing, but in fact, they are being cautious.

Bullying is tricky. Very often, the first thing adults want to do is actually the worst thing they could do. When a child who is not socially integrated at recess is being teased, alienated, and ostracized, it is very tempting to say, “Let’s throw an adult in there to play with that child or to protect that child.” But that will only further alienate the child and mark him or her as different and unusual. Adults, especially educators, have to be very careful about how they intervene and what they do. Dr. Rona Novick says the best interventions she has seen have been ones that schools are doing without the express knowledge of many people, but the people who need to know are aware of what is going on. These types of intervention seem to have the best impact.

Parents should share their concerns and frustrations with school personnel, but they should remember that schools are often taking action but are unable to share that information with parents. It is important to not assume that schools are ignoring a situation just because they do not immediately tell a parent how they are responding.

18 COMMENTS

  1. Schools do not care get used to it! Principles believe children on numbers not people get used to it! Principles believe they can scream at parents if there’s an issue with the child that’s the way it will get done get used to it!

  2. I’m a rebbi for over 20 years. As Dr. Novik says, most bullying is not really bulling it may be children who are aggressive, rude. If you make search on line for bullying you will come up with some very good charts differentiating between bullying and other behaviors. These behaviours have be addressed in different ways. I have seen children being bullied. HOWEVER my experience has been that it usually comes down to is a lack of social skills mostly on the part of the children. The bullied child will usually do things that annoy other children and the bully responds by bullying. I will give an example, last year I had a child in my class that if he played a game or even a conversation he had to be the winner. Most children just shrug this off, but some respond by making which escalates into bullying. What I feel is needed is more social workers in the yeshivos.

    • Dear Rebbe/A Yid: Aggression versus bullying? This is semantics!!! My son had his arms held behind his back while a group of boys took turns throwing basketballs at his face! As a result, he has had several bouts of periorbital cellulitis. Any cold/sinus infection could result in his being hospitalized on IV antibiotics because the lymph channels in his face were destroyed by facial trauma. He got off easy. A nephew had to have his 2 front teeth replaced by a bridge, since they were punched out. Another nephew was in physical therapy for 6 months, since his hand was deliberately closed in a door, and he could not make a fist with that hand. (B”H he is now able to lay tefillin properly on that hand). Yet another nephew was kicked and thrown down a flight of steps, breaking his arm/collar bone. This is just one group of cousins whose stories I know well. what would you call these situations? Bullying? or “stam” aggression? Hashem yerachem!

  3. Best advice: take your kids out of school, try home school method. Your kids will avoid all these problems you mentioned. You will save the tuition. No measles. Quality time = love.

  4. The discussion about bullying is multifaceted. What to do about the victim. What to do about the bully. What to do to set school policy. How to train school staff. These are very separate questions, and each needs its own discussion.

    In my experience, the victim needs the attention of the school to protect. Yet, much of the nefarious activity occurs during times when the active supervision by staff is at a minimum, and prevention is close to impossible. I have not seen progress without the involvement of law enforcement, although I cannot consider the schools at fault for lack of effort. Nothing but handcuffs stops a real bully. Sounds extreme, but that’s been my observation.

  5. This article is awful and so hurtful. Just a long winded diatribe offering no explanations or suggestions on how to fix this huge problem. Instead, once again another way of making the schools look fine and pushing the issue under the rug.

    Children who are bullied can be scared for life. it affects their ability to learn, to study, to be social and eventually to get into a healthy relationship built on love and trust. As soon as their spouse gets upset about something they will tremble and fall right back into their lonely corner griped with fear of what they think will obviously come next. This is such a horrible and painful issue and it is NOT being dealt with.

    Please do not give the schools reasons to hide. Show me a school where EVERY teacher and Rebbi is required to attend classes and workshops regularly on how to notice bullying, how to deal with bullying, how to respond and stop bullying and then you can tell me that the schools are doing things but just can’t say what they are doing. Until then, all we have are wonderful teachers, rabbeim and educators who know nothing about this particular issue.

    Like any other disease, its all about educating people about the symptoms, the treatments and the options. Its not at all about schools trying their best but just can’t really share the info.

    Sorry, but this is one of the worst posts I have ever read. Lets give the schools a pass and push the issue away and let’s all smile and realize we are trying our best even though hundreds of children are being scared for life in front of our very eyes and under our watch. UGH!!!!!!!

  6. Not to detract in any way from the severity of the issue, I’m just curious as to what criteria Matzav uses in featuring women on their site?

    Disclaimer: I personally have no issue with appropriately clad woman being featured unless the Poskeim shlita don’t feel it should be allowed.

  7. In my experience the children who bully are raised in homes that lack behavioral normalcy. A good start might be requiring parents to attend effective communication lectures at school.

    • and what experience is this? how do you judge a good home? anything that doesnt confirm your biases you explain away?

    • that is not a bullying issue that can be attributed to anything. anybody with connections is gonna have a different set of rules same as money!

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