This post is part of a series of posts that addresses how to report that your child is being bullied and what to do, what to say, and how to do it. This post specifically addresses bullying and what to do after a meeting or verbal discussion with teachers, principals, etc. It is important that we properly document bullying reports, acknowledgments, promises, and discussions in writing for the record after a verbal conversation. When these are memorialized in writing, it can help to ensure all parties are on the same page, and increase follow through after in-person bullying reporting and/or discussions.
I’m a mom who’s been through having her child bullied more than once, but I’m not a lawyer…so this advice is based on my personal experience.
The Problem with Conversations Versus the Written Word
I want to address this because it’s a very common issue. We often have VERBAL conversations – especially in the early stages – and we make an initial report of our child being bullied via conversation with a teacher or the principal. We express our concerns and report incidences and they respond – all verbally. These conversations can happen impromptu, in passing, on the phone, in-person, scheduled or otherwise. And what happens after a verbal conversation is that everything relies on memory and interpretation. So, what you understood and recall being said, and what the other party understood and recalls being said may be different.
And this trickles down to the specifics of the bullying incidents that are documented on the record, the promises made, stated changes that would be implemented, or protections that would extended to a child. While our immediate take away from these conversations may or may not differ from the school, one thing we know is that you won’t likely realize how and where your interpretation differs until a lot of time passes…and the more time that passes, the more that gap can widen.
Example of Misunderstanding a Verbal Conversation Regarding Bullying
The term bullying may be used casually by some, and reserved only for serious issues for others…don’t assume you’re on the same page. Make sure that when you are reporting bullying, it’s going on the record as a formal report of bullying, and that it then triggers a the required protocol and response from the school to address bullying.
Prime example being that you thought you were formally reporting a bullying incident, and the other party thought you were expressing some friendship issues at school and asking for help brainstorming how to help your child. Nothing is recorded. No procedures kick-in. Weeks go by and you elevate the issue and follow up and find out there’s no record of your report. And then you’re starting from ground zero.
So how to do we fix that?
Follow Up All Verbal Conversations with Written Letters
The short of the long is that we need to follow up ALL verbal conversations regarding bullying with a written letter (email or on paper, up to you). This serves two important issues:
Ensure All Parties Understand and Agree
First and foremost, it’s really important that you are on the same page with your child’s school, and in the event you’ve misunderstood something that was said in a verbal conversation, you want (need) to know ASAP.
Documentation of the Record of Who, What, When
Fingers crossed you can sort out the issues quickly and swiftly! But that doesn’t always happen, and in the unfortunate event that you find yourself – months later – needing to substantiate that your school was made aware and kept updated on your child being bullied at school…this will serve as the documentation of the verbal reporting done in a conversation. This way your letter will (should be) added to your child’s record as the statement of the who, what, when.
Months after a conversation, we recall less and less. And the more time that goes by, you will undoubtedly recall what was said differently from school. By following up on verbal reports of bullying, we don’t find ourselves (months later) with a different understanding of the conversation, and what would be done to help your child.
What to Write To Document a Conversation on Bullying
Obviously the details are going to be very specific to your situation, but the basic is that you need to memorialize the conversation details and recap that:
- a conversation took place
- with who
- on what date
- at what time
- by what means (phone, meeting after school, brief chat at pick-up)
- what you reported verbally in the conversation (dates of bullying incidents, incident description, parties involved)
- what you were told would be done about the bullying, how your child would be protected
Example Letter Following a Discussion on Bullying
Tips On Tone of Letters Reporting Bullying
When we’re angry, these letters can tend to get REALLY long, really contentious, really detailed. Since you’ve already discussed with your teacher/principal, they surely understand your concern and anger.
Don’t drown the facts of your child being bullied with your own emotion and opinion.
Stick to the Facts
Bullying speaks for itself and it is a violation of school policy everywhere, and schools are required to address it and resolve it within certain timeframes (can vary by state). Schools know this. Just the mere fact that you are sophisticated enough to follow up verbal conversations with a written letter stating a list of facts will IN AND OF ITSELF send a major code red to your child’s school about how serious you are. And we all know squeaky wheels get more grease.
Keep it Short and Sweet
Finally, in the unlikely event that your school isn’t helpful, and seems not to care…they probably won’t be inclined to care more because your letters are long and angry. So we suggest you write the letter, then set it aside and sleep on it, and then edit it the next day down to the facts before sending.
Questions? Drop them in the comments and we’ll get back to you with any ideas we have!
Stuck? We highly recommend seeking out educational advocates or attorneys in your local area, who know your school policy and how things work. Many of them accept pro bono (free) clients if you cannot afford their fees.