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Harassment by Other Students

Middle School Expert Advice from Connie Collins

Q: My daughter is in the eighth grade and is extremely gifted. She is being taunted very badly by a handful of girls led by one ringleader. The school knows it is going on and has tried to stop it, but the girls' parents refuse to admit that their daughters are at fault. She has never once stood up for herself until one day last week she had all she could take and called one of the girls a witch. The girl filed a harassment charge against my daughter and the principal did not accept it.

That child's mother has now hired a lawyer and my daughter is a wreck. She cries all the time. I have pulled her out of school pending a meeting with our school superintendent, involved staff, and parents. If this doesn't get us anywhere, I don't know what my next step will be. I can't educate her at home because I have to work and she is way too smart for me. This has turned my family upside down, and I am physically ill because of it. I would love some advice.

A: Wow! That the bullying of your daughter has gone on for so long raises so many questions about what the school's process is for handling conflicts between students. Is there no peer-mediation or conflict-resolution program? Can the school counselor mediate between the girls -- with no parents involved? Have the other girls ever been disciplined for harassment? It really doesn't matter if her parents won't admit to her part in this if the school decides that she is bullying your daughter. The school can impose consequences.

I know this may not be of much solace for you or your daughter, but remember this other parent has to prove harassment on the part of your child. If this would goes to court -- and I cannot believe it will even get out of the lawyer's office -- it might be a golden opportunity for you and your daughter to present your case.

As for your daughter being out of school, I encourage you to get her back in school or into an alternative program if your district has one. Perhaps her present school could seek an arrangement for her to attend another school in the district so that she can be safe.

This is not an easy situation. I know you will continue to support and encourage your daughter to continue doing her best wherever she is.

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Connie Collins, professional school counselor, worked for 35 years in public education as a teacher and counselor at the middle school and secondary levels. Collins worked daily with the parents of the students in her various schools, and has facilitated several parenting groups.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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