Keep the Law on Your Side When Battling Bullying
Fleischer & Ravreby Advises Parents How to Effectively Fight Bullying
Monday, October 25, 2010
(San Diego) – If you learned your child was the victim of a bully, you’d naturally be angry. You’d want to immediately and forcefully demand that someone be held accountable. But family law experts warn that if your complain process isn’t handled with care, you may not solve the problem. You may make it worse.
“Children worry that if parents intervene in their problems, the bullying will get worse. And if you aren’t effective with your complaint, your child could be absolutely right,” said Myra Chack Fleischer, lead counsel and Family Law Expert, Fleischer & Ravreby. “As a result, they may not share their entire situation, or tell the whole truth. But doing nothing about bullying ensures that nothing will change, and this can’t be permitted. No parent should permit his or her child to suffer.”
Fleischer says parents need to be smart and systematic about putting together a game plan to fight bullying. She offers a few tips that will help a parent control bullying where possible, and prepare for more serious action if necessary.
Get the story of the bullying situation as accurately as possible from your child. Listen. Reassure your child he or she has done the right thing coming to you, and that you will be on their side (their “lawyer”). Enlist their cooperation.
Try your best to control your natural anger over the bullying. Don’t make telephone calls, or put anything in writing including e-mail when you are angry. This will not help resolve the problem. Adults including administrators, teachers, and other parents will be more willing to help if you approach the situation in a diplomatic way.
If adults in authority, for example at a school, have no knowledge your child is being bullied, it’s fair to give the school a reasonable amount of time to work out minor problems. This could be a few days, or a week.
Play lawyer and put EVERYTHING in writing. Documentation is critically important. Get dates, times, locations and names of events, and everyone you talk with. Write down anything that you might refer to later, especially comments made by adults in authority such as teachers, staff, or administrators. Tape record statements, type them up and have witnesses sign them. Take photos of any injuries or damages.
In some cases, bullying requires immediate action by law enforcement. If there is a physical or a sexual assault, call police immediately. School officials can take some actions but they are not police officers. However, they are subject to lawsuits if they fail to report violence when they become aware of it.
Do not let anyone try to blame the victim of the bully for the bullying. “Bullies act like they do because they can get away with it,” says Fleischer. “It’s the adults who let bullies get away with it. When adults choose to do something proactive about fighting back, bullying will stop. It may not be easy, but it must be done.”
When should you consider calling an attorney about a bullying situation? Fleischer says it is important to allow school authorities or other responsible parties a chance to resolve the situation. But if you are not satisfied with the response, or there are serious delays, then it’s time to consult an consult an experienced Family Law Attorney immediately to discuss the best options to remedy the situation not only for your family, but for those who may have been victimized.
“No one can possibly have your child’s best interests at heart the way you do as a parent,” Fleischer says, “School personnel are not your child’s parents. They don’t love your child like you do. Hold authorities accountable for taking responsibility, backed up by strong documented evidence. Be sure you have requested help through the proper channels first. If your child does not get relief, it’s time to turn to the legal system. In the long run, you may be preventing other children from being bullied in the future,” says Fleischer.