The Ugly Truth About School Bullying

September 19, 2015
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Flickr/Lance Neilson

When a child is bullied at school, it can be a lonely and isolating experience. Unfortunately, he may not display obvious behaviors that would alert adults to what is going on. However, there are some telltale signs of bullying that parents should be aware of, as outlined by

  1. Injuries that can’t be explained. If a child comes home from school with mystery injuries that don’t seem to align with the explanations given, this could potentially be a warning sign of physical bullying.
  2. Frequent ailments — headaches, stomachaches — or an inclination to fake sickness. If a child is looking to avoid bullying situations at school, she might try to avoid school altogether by pretending to be ill.
  3. Lost or destroyed clothing, books or possessions. A child who suddenly loses items, or comes home with torn shirts and books could be suffering from bullying.
  4. Changes in eating habits, whether it is skipping meals or binge eating. A bullied kid might come home very hungry because he didn’t eat lunch.
  5. Poor grades, or a sudden disinterest in school. Not wanting to go to school, or suddenly experiencing a decline in performance could mean something more serious than a random lack of interest.
  6. Sleeping problems or frequent nightmares. Stress and trauma from bullying can definitely manifest in the form of difficulty sleeping.
  7. Suddenly losing friends or interest in socializing. Rapid onset of antisocial behavior is yet another potential warning sign of school bullying, according to
  8. Destructive behaviors, like running away, self-harming or even talking about suicide. While this upsetting behavior can often have a number of sources, bullying can definitely be one of them.
  9. Decreased self esteem or feelings of helplessness. Parents know their children. If a kid seems to experience an uncharacteristic dip in confidence, it’s time to find out why.

Again, because every child is different, he might not display all or even most of these signs. But it never hurts to start a conversation if you are concerned about out-of-the-ordinary behavior — if only to let him know that you are always on his side.

How to support kids who are bullied:

  • Listen and focus on the child. Learn what’s been going on and show you want to help.
  • Assure the child that bullying is not their fault.
  • Know that kids who are bullied may struggle with talking about it. Consider referring them to a school counselor, psychologist, or other mental health service.
  • Give advice about what to do. This may involve role-playing and thinking through how the child might react if the bullying occurs again.
  • Work together to resolve the situation and protect the bullied child. The child, parents, and school or organization may all have valuable input.

It may help to:

  • Ask the child being bullied what can be done to make him or her feel safe. Remember that changes to routine should be minimized. He or she is not at fault and should not be singled out. For example, consider rearranging classroom or bus seating plans for everyone. If bigger moves are necessary, such as switching classrooms or bus routes, the child who is bullied should not be forced to change.
  • Develop a game plan. Maintain open communication between schools, organizations, and parents. Discuss the steps that are taken and the limitations around what can be done based on policies and laws. Remember, the law does not allow school personnel to discuss discipline, consequences, or services given to other children.

Be persistent. Bullying may not end overnight. Commit to making it stop and consistently support the bullied child.

Avoid these mistakes:

  • Never tell the child to ignore the bullying.
  • Do not blame the child for being bullied. Even if he or she provoked the bullying, no one deserves to be bullied.
  • Do not tell the child to physically fight back against the kid who is bullying. It could get the child hurt, suspended, or expelled.
  • Parents should resist the urge to contact the other parents involved. It may make matters worse. School or other officials can act as mediators between parents.

Follow-up. Show a commitment to making bullying stop. Because bullying is behavior that repeats or has the potential to be repeated, it takes consistent effort to ensure that it stops.


  1. T. Bonney

    January 4, 2016 at 10:55 pm

    I wish it was all that simple. My Grandson was bullied at school ( 4th grade – stabbed in the neck with a pencil…not just a name calling thing here )and all that was done was they made him feel like he was the one that did something wrong. The school told us because the child was under 10 that there was nothing they could do. We asked if the kid ( who had straight F’s) could be moved out of that class and they told us that it was his RIGHT to stay in there, but if my Grandson ( who had straight A’s ) would like to be moved to another classroom they could arrange that. They would move him away from the Teacher he loved and the friends he made to get away from a bully…how fair does that sound…the bully won twice!!! Clearly a hate crime here….he told my Grandson ” I have a real problem with white people” …. Something is very wrong with that….the boy is 9 years old!!!

    Thank you for the vent…maybe the next Child can get better help.

    T. Bonney
    Angery NaNa

    • Elaine

      January 5, 2016 at 2:59 pm

      My son said the same thing. “Momma they don’t like me because they said I was white.” This world is full of people that don’t know now to get along. My son is 12 and was diagnosed with ADAD. Before the medicine he would act up and now with his medicine he is more calmer. I think that are using that as there advantage.

    • Priscilla

      January 5, 2016 at 3:52 pm

      I’m sorry he’s going thru that and I’m sorry the school is very horrible with it. Go straight to the district! If the person doesn’t correct it the “right way” (which means moving the bully to a different class) request to speak to someone higher, if that doesn’t work request to speak to someone in a even higher position. If you climb up the ladder and it still isn’t done go to the media, the news. I can’t guarantee that it will get solve bUT it’s worth the try for his safety. Not only his safety but also for his confidence, his social skills…. You know what! Press charges on that little boy, the school won’t call the cops but you can and you should! That’s assault no matter how old they are, and even if it’s been a couple of weeks it better late than never.

  2. Elaine

    January 5, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    My son just told me that he is being bullied at school. They make fun of his shoes, hair. No physical violence yet. See about 2 years ago he was diagnosed with ADHD. He would alway act out. Now with his medicine he is more calmer and I think the kids can tell.

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