Positive solutions for a difficult circumstance
We all want our children to be safe, both physically and emotionally, at all times. We send them to school and hope that they will be happy and supported by teachers and their peers. But what happens when a teacher decides to bully or shame a child? How do we, as parents, cope? And, more important, what do we do when these advances are purely focused on our personal choices as adults to be single parents? What if being a Solo Mom puts your child at risk for harassment from teachers?
Most of the teachers your child will encounter will be supportive and encouraging. However, there will be the occasional teacher who will bring his personal viewpoints into the classroom. This teacher will bully because the child’s personal life experience doesn’t match what is comfortable and tolerable for him.
It is never a good idea to ignore the situation, and there are many positive ways to address such behavior.
Always reassure and support your child. Your relationship with your child is a priority, so keeping her safe is number one. If you are noticing any unusual behavior, don’t hesitate to bring her to a pediatrician who can check for signs of depression or anxiety. Many kids don’t want to talk about problems or report them, especially when adults are involved. Tell your child you will support her and be there for her till the situation is resolved. Let your child know that the problem is an adult issue, and she is not in trouble because she hasn’t done nothing wrong.
Document all incidents in writing. Make sure to keep lines of communication open between you and your child. If you are noticing a pattern of behavior at school, have him write it down and share it with you. Include what was said, the date, time, and if other students were present. If there is any physical or cyber-bullying, report this to your local police station immediately. In some areas, this type of bullying is considered a crime. Talk to your child about his reactions to the words or treatment and what he can do to keep his self-esteem intact. Always tell your child that he is loved and supported.
Getting involved. Before you go to the school and have any words with a teacher, principal, or counselor, make sure to tell your child you are going to have the meeting. You run the risk of embarrassing your child or creating a situation that will backfire. Your child may stop talking to you about the problem at hand. Furthermore, you need to prepare your child for further possible retaliation from the teacher.
Start with the teacher. Ask the teacher for a face-to-face meeting. Make sure to bring a second person with you as a neutralizer. As well, you will likely have less chance for additional bullying during the meeting. Avoid yelling, accusing, blaming, and threatening. You may not be able to change the teacher’s mind about how she feels about you being a Single Mom. Your objective is to stop the bullying. If you are not able to come to a resolution, do not try to “make” the teacher understand. Your job as a Solo Mom is to be a good parent. It may be time to talk to an authority at the school if you don’t see any positive results.
When to go to the top of command. If you have exhausted all opportunities with a teacher to come to an agreement or understanding, a principal or headmaster would be the first place to start addressing the situation. Keep your child out of the room, regardless of his behavior during any incidents that may have occurred with the teacher. Bring your documents, and keep your voice calm. It will be hard for anyone to ignore the evidence.
What if nothing improves? If you don’t see any change in action after both meetings, it is time to file a formal complaint with the superintendent or school board, demanding an official response. Make sure to keep records of all communications, including e-mails, phone calls, and letters. Refrain from additional conversation with the teacher about the subject, and keep all dialogue professional and selective.
Be quick to respond to any communication you may receive from the school-board members or superintendent. If those parties drag their feet or don’t respond within 30 days, it may be time to investigate legal counsel. In the meantime, you will want to look into other options for your child in a new classroom or new school. Before you remove your child from the school environment, though, make sure you have made every effort to stop the current form of bullying.
Become proactive. There may be other parents in the school who are Solo Moms. Reaching out to form a support group or parent group at your school for single parents will be a way to show solidarity within the school and gain support and tolerance. Numbers have an effect. The more parents joining you in your crusade to support your cause, the more traction you will have within the school walls. Join your PTA, and show your child how to teach tolerance and acceptance within a community. Show your child’s teacher that the school is no place for ignorance and bullying. Be a fantastic example of a loving, supportive, and active parent in your community.
What would you do if your child told you of bullying or shaming by a teacher because you are a Solo Mom? Share your story by submitting to Voices.
Rebecca Cherry is an accomplished musician, writer, and creative seeker. She is enjoying her new role as a Solo Mom to her baby girl. You can follow her on Twitter at @CherryRebecca and Facebook at Rebecca Cherry.
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