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My 13-year-old daughter is being verbally harrassed by one of her classmates. My daughter simply wants to ask the teacher to switch her out of her desk groups, while I want her to talk to the Dean since my daughter feels a bit unsafe around this girl. Should I let her handle it her way, or should I go in and speak with the Dean?


Beverly Willett Replied: Troublemakers are a fact of life and encouraging your daughter to be "tough" might cause the situation to escalate. Switching desk groups is a good idea along with alerting the Dean and teacher. It's their job to watch out for your daughter and protect her if necessary. Meanwhile, I'd suggest encouraging your daughter to ignore her classmate or gently ask her to stop. If the school is watching out for her physical safety, mere words can't hurt your daughter, especially if you and her friends provide reassurance. Having your daughter imitate her classmate will only sow seeds of anger in your daughter's heart. The classmate obviously has a problem - perhaps at home. This is an opportunity for your daughter to learn compassion, not hate.
Posted On 2004-04-04 20:32:48
Judith App-Winter Replied: While teasing was once excused as kids being kids, the recent school shootings have caused adults to focus increasingly on zero tolerance with regards to harassment, resulting in a more proactive approach to solutions to these problems. Perhaps no years are more challenging than those of early adolescence when kids are jockeying for position of power and acceptance. Add to that powder keg a wide range of powerful adolescent emotions, and it's easy to see why this situation is so difficult for your daughter to face. The fact remains that your daughter should not be subjected to such harassment on a daily basis at any age, for any reason. If she feels badly enough to bring it to your attention, it has probably become a pretty uncomfortable situation for her. Your daughter deserves your understanding and support. If she feels unable to solve this on her own, or if the situation has escalated, you should get involved. Perhaps the two of you can speak to the dean together. If bullying is getting in the way of your daughter's right to receive an education in a harassment free environment, it should be addressed and resolved as soon as possible.
Posted On 2004-04-04 20:12:31
Rhonda Clements Replied: Verbal harassment between classmates is regrettable common among 13-15 year old students. If the abuse occurs because of a disagreement concerning how a project or task should best be completed, then it is appropriate for the student to involve a teacher directly involved with the project. It is a teacher's responsibility to mediate disagreements between students. If however, the verbal abuse focuses on personal topics or biases unrelated to schoolwork, then your daughter should seek advice from the Dean. It is the Dean's responsibility to improve communication between students. Parents of teenage students should only become involved if the harassment endangers their child's physical welfare. Remain a good listener, and praise your daughter's ability to ignore the comments.
Posted On 2004-04-04 19:55:29
Bernie Pepchinski Replied: It may only make the bully look for a new target so I believe it is in the best interest of all to get some professional intervention. This is not as easy as it might seem, some counselors or school officials are poorly equipped to deal with these issues in a way which safeguards the student being harassed, and provide follow up for all involved. I believe a trusted adult needs to be the go between- this might involve the school counselor, a teacher with mediation skills or possibly the school drug officer. The parent needs to do some footwork to investigate the school can take on this intervention with professionalism; both the bully and the victim need follow -up.
Posted On 2004-04-04 19:16:35
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