When dealing with bullying situations, teachers not only have to diffuse the bullying situation, but also must discuss the incident with parents. Teachers should have a plan of action of what to say to the parents of the bully.
Have written statements from students and witnesses
Before talking to parents, the first things a teacher should have is written and signed statements from the students involved and witnesses. If it is just the teacher’s word that the child is engaging in bullying behavior, it is more difficult to communicate with the parents on the bullying activities. Often if parents consider not believing that their child is bullying, teachers can diffuse the argument with written statements.
Consult the principal
Before contacting parents discuss the incident with the principal. There may have been a history of bullying and the principal can give insight and advice on how to handle discussing the incident with parents. Having appropraite background information can help the teacher be able to explain the infraction and the consequences.
Introduce parents to a brief version of the incident
Begin by informing the parents of a brief version of the events of the bullying incident. Usually, the teacher will then receive a comment from the parent that allows a teacher to gauge how the remainder of the conversation will progress. Parents will then usually ask for specifics and then the teacher can supply those. It is best that the opening statements are abbreviated at first. It may even begin with something as simple as “We had a problem at school today.” Then later introduce the incident.
Choose non-accusatory words
Choosing the best words to set the tone of the discussion is important to reduce the chance of parents being upset. Non-accusatory words such as unfortunate or disappointed tend to give a softened touch to the discussion. Although the child may have had a serious incident, a teacher should encourage parents to sense that they are working together as a team to correct the problem. Demonstrate concern for the child who is exhibiting bullying behavior as well.
It may be important to gather more information about the child’s behavior from the parents. Some potential questions could include asking about behavior at home, if they see any signs of bullying behavior at home or with friends, and even asking what they believe the consequences should be. When teachers place the problem solving on the shoulders of the parents, they tend to be more willing to work with the teacher. It is possible the parents are at the end of their patience too and may welcome the teacher’s concern.
Discuss school policy
After gaining the goodwill of the parents and the sense that there is a partnership between the teacher and parents, discuss the specific school policies of the school district. Most schools have bullying policies, and it is important to be prepared to follow the school policies. Have a copy of the school policy available for consultation. Be prepared that parents may want the teacher not to follow school policies, especially if this is after multiple offenses, which may result in more serious consequences. If parents do not want to follow school policy, the parents will then need to discuss the policy with the school administration. At that point it is a district issue and the issue should be passed to officials to deal with disciplinary issue.
Calm unpleasant parents
Sometimes difficult parents can become unpleasant and not believe the incident or disagree with the consequences. Parents may also ask for the names of witnesses, which is confidential. Begin refutation statements with an apology. “I’m sorry you feel that way, but …” and then circle back to the position again. If at any time parents become irate or use profanity, it is time to end the discussion. At that time, it is necessary to bring in a cooperating teacher or administrator to arbitrate the situation. Realize that sometimes the bully has learned the bullying behavior at home.
In the best case scenario, the parents and the teacher will formulate a way to change the negative situation into a positive situation. Welcome suggestions from parents and offer to continue to communicate on progress. Encourage parents to discuss appropriate ways of being popular or dealing with anger issues.