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Bullying and Your Child: Can the Law Protect Him?

As a parent, what is your stance on bullying? In the past, many parents have brushed it off, thinking of it as a rite of passage every child is simply forced to endure. But with some cases of bullying resulting in such serious consequences, every parent should have a plan.

The Parent Teacher Association (PTA) offers some tips to parents to help children steer clear of and deal with bullying, including:

  • Teach your child at an early age to avoid bullying behavior, both on the giving and receiving end.
  • Teach your child to be assertive rather than aggressive or violent when confronted by a bully. Instruct him to walk away and get help from an adult if the situation becomes dangerous.
  • Practice various bullying situations through role-playing.
  • Teach your child never to defend himself with a gun or weapon.
  • Keep communication open with your child, and encourage him to talk about school and related activities.
  • Pay attention to the symptoms of bullying, including withdrawal, abrupt lack of interest in school, a sudden drop in grades, or signs of physical abuse.
  • Inform school officials if your child is a victim of bullying. Keep your own records of incidents and report them to the school principal.
  • Respond to your child's fears and concerns with patience and support.
  • If Your Child Is the Bully
    Unfortunately, you may find that your child is the one who is bullying. Although the consequences of bullying are not always indentified in many school policies, some punishments include suspension, expulsion, and, in extreme cases, criminal charges. In addition, for extreme cases of bullying, parents of victims may have legal recourse via civil lawsuits. Talk to your child's school administrator to find out what the policy is at his school.

    If you suspect your child is a bully, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology suggests ways to help him, such as:

  • Seek help for your child as soon as possible. Without intervention, bullying can lead to bigger problems, such as academic, legal, emotional, and social difficulties.
  • Talk to your child's pediatrician, school principal, teacher, or guidance counselor about his behavior.
  • Arrange an evaluation with a child psychiatrist or other mental health professional if the bullying continues after intervention. This can help you and your child understand what is causing the bullying.
  • You can find out more about bullying laws in your state by visiting HRSA's website. And for more information on how to deal with bullies, you can visit the PTA's website.

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