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Domestic Violence

Handling Bullying Responsibly

01/26/2007

Question:

My 11 year old son was beat up on the way back home from school while the other boys` parent encouraged it. A police officer told my son to learn to defend himself is this a good suggestion?

Answer:

The police officer's response was not a good one --- it assumes that violence via bullying should be handled by responding with violence.  It is a particularly dangerous response if the children who are bullying your son are larger in number and size.  You might consider enlisting the support of systems within your community. 

Two experts on the issue of bullying --- Lindsay Palmer and Todd Herrenkohl --- suggest contacting officials at the school, since after school off-campus events are still considered part of the school day.  Ask that a report be made.  If you are not satisfied with the school's response, go to the school superintendent.  Your issues are important and must be heard.  Some bullying behaviors are punishable by law, depending on the age of the perpetrators and nature of the bullying offense.  You can also contact your local police department to make a claim.

In addition to the resources on http://www.kcsarc.org/, Lindsay Palmer also suggests other things you can do, including: 

1) Asking if the school has a policy on bullying and harassment;

2) Asking to read the policy.  Does it contain a section on bullying?

3) Asking your son what he would like to do about the incident.  He may have ideas that you haven't thought of;

4) Asking your son in more detail about what happened, about whether it's happened before (when, where and how) and whether the same perpetrators were involved; and

5) Contacting your local sexual assault resource center, which may have resources to assist your son, even if the nature of the bullying was not sexual.

This response was prepared with the assistance of Todd Herrenkohl, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Washington School of Social Work and Lindsay Palmer, Director of Education, King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, Renton, Washington.

For more information:

Go to the Domestic Violence health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Amy E Bonomi, PhD, MPH Amy E Bonomi, PhD, MPH
Former Associate Professor
College of Education and Human Ecology
The Ohio State University