Thursday, October 28, 2010

Security Planning and Investigation For Surviving Chronic Bullying

America's daytime television talk show circuit has recently seen new competition in the form of a new group of ladies called "The Talk" on the CBS Network. The Talk has recently aired a series of shows dealing with the topic of school harassment & bullying. Rosalind Wiseman appeared on this show four days ago, and is an internationally recognized author and educator on children, teens, parenting, education and social justice. Her work aims to help parents, educators and young people successfully navigate the social challenges of young adulthood.

After this show, Rosalind stayed behind for what was titled "The Talk After The Talk" in which she spoke about important steps to take when parents deal with bullying in their child's schools. One of Rosalind's suggestions was to use the language used by the school staff instead of just jumping off the deep end because your child is watching you and is indeed going to use this time as a way to learn how to solve serious problems in life. This author agrees with Rosalind. Before confronting your child's school staff in a meeting with the principal and asst. principal present, it is imperative that you learn the specific policies governing your specific situation and while you state your case to these people, make sure to say "You even say in your policies that you will honor this safeguard for the school environment".

Go in with a calm head at all times. Your credibility as a parent i son the line, and your character will be truly seen in these situations. Rosalind goes on to mention a second great point for parents to stay in charge of their child's well being in a school harassment / bullying scenario. That advice given is to buy a cheap alarm clock that your child can use to wake up on time in the morning for school while you, the parent keep hold of the cell phone. Rosalind points out that this will take away the temptation of your child to try and "fix" the situation by constantly checking into Facebook and other social networking sites, and by constantly texting about the situation.

Make strict rules for your child during school harassment / bullying scenarios that will keep the child from using homework time for internet time which is one prime opportunity the child will have to be further reachable by their tormentor(s) and / or exposed to the continuing drama involved with these troublesome occurrences. What happens on-line affects your child's ability to concentrate and live in a healthy manner in the real world.

Rosalind wrote a great book called "Queen Bees and Wannabes". According to Wiseman, bullies have definite personality types. In her video at the CBS site linked to above, she tells us all just a couple of things to look for in a bully even if that bully be our own child.

Looking for red flags is always something parents must do to protect their children, however, do not lean only one learning one personality type and do NOT rely on honing an expert ability to use psychological profiling as this practice has been proven to have major pitfalls even when used by John Douglas, who invented this practice. John had to learn about these pitfalls as part and parcel of the specific science he was pioneering. One thing that was learned, revealed to the world of psychology that any person can fit a profile due to teh fact of no two people being the same, and everyone having their own personality type which may not always mean danger.

Where is a parent to turn? Turn to common sense! The first thing to teach your child is that the best response to harassment / bullying is absolutely no response at all beyond setting boundaries. Your child need not actually speak to a bully to set these boundaries. Setting boundaries that say "STOP!" and "YOU MAKE ME UNCOMFORTABLE" can look like a combination of ignoring and body language towards the offending party which needs to be obvious but not an obvious threat. Non-verbal cues need to be simple, but clear on the first communication! A bully should only get ONE parental warning from the parent of the victim before school officials or law enforcement get involved.

So, the first part of a security plan is NO CONTACT / NO RESPONSE!

The next part of your security plan needs to be keeping an accurate log of contacts made towards the victim by the offender. This needs to include credible data such as who, what, when, where, why and how. Include times and dates, witnesses, document everything in case the need to pursue legal remedies should happen. Part of the bullying process includes those people who may call your child at home or have personal contact with your child at school in the role of the "informer". Sometimes the "informer" is actually doing just that and the information / rumor being told to your child about his/her situation is true and other time, the "informer" is a party to the psychological and emotional aspect of the bullying.

Put the informer in your logs as well! The third part of the plan is to keep open communication flowing between you and your child and be there to allow your child to "vent" until this scenario gets satisfactorily resolved. If and when the school leadership shows that they cannot control the school environment well enough to provide for a safe, encouraging, healthy environment that fosters learning, take your child out of that school!

Whatever calls your child gets at home should be monitored with the child present in front of you and this should only apply to bullying scenarios. Be a witness to other related things at all times. These things may be contact between your child and his/her friends, the walk to/from school, monitor your child's usual hang-outs and change those hang outs during bullying scenarios. Allow your child to go to different places near your home and do it within a planned time frame that only you and your home know about.

These tools give a parent all they need to investigate a bullying scenario, and a way to watch the texts / threatening e-mails or damaging internet postings get published!  I didn't mention that, did I? While you are doing these simple things to protect your child, you can be monitoring everything. Make sure you have either a key logger or screen shot software on your computer that will allow you to simply right click and choose your method to save material that is harassing or threatening. Most screen shot software choices will allow you to save by selection, save by full frame / page, and other options. This is indeed credible because a screen shot can be examined for authenticity if ever it needs to be used in a legal proceeding. Screen shots are VERY powerful and convincing pieces of evidence.

We've talked about planning and investigation, now we'll talk about evidence. Remember that log that was mentioned before? That counts as evidence at least when it comes to probable cause. Keep a chain of custody entry in that log along with an index of what evidence you have compiled, who compiled it, when, how, and why. The chain of custody entries will simply note who handled the logs and other evidence, who created them, when, etc. Being organized is the best thing you can do instead of panicking. A family united for their own peace is a chronic bullies' worst nightmare.

Evidence is important because vague allegations, and skepticism just don't cut it today. In today's world, you have to have evidence to prove everything. Chances could certainly be that while you are building your case against the buly and the bully's parents, the school and the bully's parents may be trying to build a case against you in order to deny that bullying is even happening or to paint the victim as the guilty party. These practices by offender's families and schools are old. Old enough that there are a number of spins that can be put on this practice, and they're all based on making the complaining party (victim) look like 1. a liar, 2. less than credible, 3. emotionally/psychiatrically disturbed.

When all else fails, and a school is hellbent on denial, number three works nicely most times, and it is hard to disprove! It's really a catch 22 in which no one wins and everyone loses. it takes critical thinking, asking hard questions, and gathering evidence during the investigation of the bullying scenario to win. As a final note in this section, it needs to be said that schools practicing this are far and few between.

The final step should be to obtain family support even if by use of a professional counselor, social worker, or psychologist. After a bullying incident it is usually wise to evaluate your child for the harm done so that the child can be properly supported through the healing process if the bullying was a severe to chronic experience. Reserve the use of this resource only for the worst experiences. Other less harmful events can usually be dealt with at home. No matter what, support your child when suspected bullying has started.

Kathy Foust has written recent articles about bullying and mental health that may be helpful in the security planning and investigation of chronic bullying. and then enter her name in the search box!       

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