By BRENNA WEAVER
Should I take my child out of school due to bullying?
QUESTION: My child is being bullied at school (or was, before COVID). We tried to teach her how to deal with it, but that didn’t seem to work. She’s about to return to school with those same kids. At what point do we pull her out and homeschool her?
It is woeful when any child experiences bullying, and it is especially heartbreaking when it is your own child. Bullying, according to Merriam-Webster, is defined as abuse and mistreatment of someone vulnerable by someone stronger or more powerful. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Education found that approximately 25 percent of children between 12 and 18 reported being bullied at school.
Bullying can be physical (physical contact, spitting, damaging property); relational (spreading rumors, purposefully ignoring); verbal (name calling, teasing, making threats); and cyber-connected (social media, email, texts). The effects of bullying can include anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and developmental regression, depending on the age of the child.
You mentioned you have tried to teach her how to deal with it herself. Without knowing what that looked like, I’ll say this: StopBullying.gov recommends children clearly tell the bully, “Stop,” and encourages children to walk away and talk with a trusted adult. If you had her try these things and they did not work, have you considered a parent/teacher conference or speaking with the parents of the other child(ren) involved?
With this situation, I am reminded of Matthew 18:15-17 — when a brother sins against you, go to him, and if that does not work, bring others with you — and ultimately, take it before the church if the previous attempts are fruitless. In this case, has it gone before the school principal or school board? Shining a light on the bullying incidents with your daughter could allow other children who are being harmed to come forward and possibly highlight a larger problem within the school.
If you have done those things to no avail or if you would prefer to keep the matter small, talking with your child about homeschooling would be wise before pulling her out. Is your child involved in any extracurricular activities such as band, academic clubs, or sports? If so, is there a way for her to stay involved? Is switching to a different school a possibility? Do you have other school-aged children, and would you homeschool them too? In what ways would homeschooling affect the dynamic of the household, for good or bad? Brainstorming solutions together could open a door you have not yet considered.
Whether you decide to keep her in the same school environment or to homeschool her, counseling may be a good option also. She can process the bullying she has experienced, regain her confidence, and learn strategies to healthily set boundaries with others for future situations. I imagine this will not be a decision you make lightly. Allow Philippians 4:6-7 to encourage you as you decide: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Brenna Weaver is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Ridgeland working with clients 18 years and older. She has experience as a secondary education teacher and children’s therapist. When not working, she enjoys reading, eating good food, and traveling.