In my last post, I discussed what parents can do to address bullying at the school district level, and how schools should often respond once bullying is reported. In Part II of my three-part series, How to Stop a Bully, I’ll discuss what parents can do to address bullying at the state and federal agency level.
Unfortunately, one of the most common complaints I get from parents is that their child is being bullied, and they don’t believe the school is doing anything about it. Even after reporting the bullying and meeting with building and district-level administrators, sometimes parents are still not satisfied with the outcome. So what’s next?
First of all, if you ever believe that a crime has been committed, contact local law enforcement. How do you know if a crime has been committed? That’s not always easy to determine, and different jurisdictions will often handle complaints very differently. A crime that is prosecuted in one county may not always be prosecuted in another. But in general, a few examples of bullying that may be criminal in nature are stalking, hate speech or other threats, and physical violence or aggression. This will most often apply for older students, particularly teenagers. Law enforcement is much less likely to get involved with young students.
Second, I generally recommend that parents file a complaint with the Arkansas Department of Education Office of Equity Assistance. This office handles a wide range of complaints, and while not every instance of bullying will meet its criteria for investigation, this is a parent’s best chance for intervention from the state agency. In addition, if you feel that your child’s teacher or principal has somehow aided in the bullying or has failed to protect your child, you can file an ethics complaint against the teacher or principal with the Arkansas Department of Education Professional Licensure Standards Board. The Board takes ethics complaints very seriously, and this should only be used in instances of teacher misconduct.
Finally, I almost always recommend that parents file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR). OCR enforces federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in entities or agencies that receive money from the U.S. Department of Education. This includes all public schools. OCR investigates complaints of discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, religion, and age. Although not every instance of bullying will rise to the level of discrimination, many do. Obvious examples are when a child is teased because of a disability or because they practice a different religion. A less obvious example might be when a girl is teased because of the clothing she wears or because she tries out for the football team. In any of these examples, if the school fails to intervene and stop the bullying, then a complaint with OCR is warranted.
I always warn parents that these complaint procedures, whether at the state or federal agency, do take time. These are not quick solutions. The quickest way to stop bullying and protect your child is by working with your school district. Parents should consider filing a complaint with a state or federal agency only after taking all necessary steps to stop the bullying at the school district level.
In my third and final part in this series, I’ll discuss the possibility of legal action to stop bullying.