School Bullies

I have just recently allowed my 13-year-old to attend public junior high. I am beginning to think I have thrown my daughter to the wolves. She is far from being ugly, and she is a very spirited soul, so she refuses to back down to anyone. Young ladies (this term is being used lightly) at this school are continually fist-fighting like the boys. My daughter has informed me that there are numerous girls now threatening to beat her up because she talked to a boy that one of them likes.

My daughter has never fought a day in her life, and I am scared to death. I called the school and they called it a teen thing that rarely actually results in a fight. I am scared she is going to come home from school one day with her beautiful face scarred. She loves school except for the bullies. What can we do?

--Hseslave
Question:

Bullies and cliques, 1990s style, are a very real threat to our children today. Your daughter is not alone. One study found that as many as 58 percent of students said they skipped school once or more because they were afraid of being picked on at school by a bully. And as you have discovered, the threat of violence is very real. Fists are one thing, but bullies are often armed with actual weapons. I am surprised--and alarmed--that your daughter's school took your complaints so lightly. Bullying is not a teen thing. Bullying is antisocial behavior that should not be permitted, in school or anywhere else. Whom did you talk with at the school? Take your concerns to someone in authority, and be prepared to give details, including names and places. Say that you fear for your daughter's safety. In some states, parents have been able to hold the school liable if their child was injured by another student (the theory being that parents are required to send their children to school by law).

You may want to consult an attorney to clarify your legal rights in your state. Talk with other parents at the school. If others share your concerns, you may be able to present your complaints to the administration together. Does the school have a peer mediation system where students resolve issues together? If so, encourage your daughter to seek relief by sitting down with these girls in a non-threatening environment. In the meantime, give your daughter lots of support and encouragement. It takes a lot of courage to stand up to this type of abuse. At the same time, make sure she understands that you do not expect her to handle the situation alone. If these girls threaten her again, she should immediately seek out an adult she can trust at school. And, of course, she should keep you informed.

-- Margaret Sagarese and Charlene Giannetti, coauthors of The Roller-Coaster Years and Parenting 911

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