Advice from Michael Charles (specialist solicitor in schools & special needs law)
A 20 point check list of some issues to consider in bullying cases. It is not necessarily exhaustive but hopefully it helps someone who needs it:
1. First and foremost in special needs cases do NOT be under a mistaken belief that statements of SEN in Wales, or EHCP's in England are not available. They are available and are all about protecting and providing for children with special needs. Do not necessarily believe the word on the street as often what happens or is said in practice, does not represent legal expectation. Indeed for another post maybe I can give multiple examples of incidents in which what happens in practice does not represent what the law demands. If without such a plan or statement write to local authority and request an assessment.
2. Be on the alert for changes in your child's behaviour. Record unusual behaviours and speak to them about what might be worrying them. Often the child may not speak to those most close to them. In which case ensure someone takes your place so that it can be reported back as well as to give your child an opportunity to voice his or her concerns.
3. In cases of incidences of bullying, record each of them in a diary. Keep your diary. This will undoubtedly become increasingly important.
4. Report the bullying to the school. Not only by telephone but be sure to follow what is said in writing. Record in writing the promises to take action which might be made. Write back to the school to reiterate what was said and what action is being proposed.
5. Ensure that the action proposed is carried out by pointing out any mistakes or omissions. Record this in writing.
6. Regularly ask for copies of the school records relating to your child. Be sure to check whether each incident is recorded in the school file and is accurate. If reports not recorded ask for them to be recorded. Check the records for appropriate accuracy.
7. Ask for meetings to be minuted. If not ensure that you write back afterwards setting out your understanding of what was agreed in a letter or email.
8. If the school has prepared minutes ask for copies and check that the notes are accurate. Check in particular that it records the action plan correctly.
9. Check the school anti bullying policy and check to ensure it is being complied with. If it is not, write to the school to say so.
10. When reporting bullying to a school, ask to ensure that each incident whether in school or on way to school is recorded in an incident record. Ask for copies of this to be placed in the school pupil records. Ie in your childs file. (the same file that you should routinely ask for up to date copies of).
11. Take your child to the GP if health appears to be an issue. Follow medical advice.
12. Remind the head teacher of his or her duty to ensure proper discipline in the school. Ask whether disciplinary action is being taken against any culprits. If not ask why not. If unhappy with the answer say so and record what you say in writing.
13. If your child appears to be the victim of a crime report it to the police. Record the crime reference number. . Remember bullying may also be a crime. Regular emotional harassment or physical assault can be a crime (Protection from harassment Act or Offences Against the person Act).
14. If non compliance with plan is observed, or if the situation appears to highlight serious failures, report the failures in writing to the school. Ask them to take appropriate steps to intervene if situation is being ignored.
15. If child unwell and not able to go to school for medical reasons. You can ask the local authority for home tuition pending recovery.
16. If child too traumatised to return to school always seek medical advice and recognition of medical unfitness to attend at school. If so ask local autjority then for new school and or home tuition, but if new school is requested ask that they arrange and pay for transport to the new school. Again put all requests in writing whether you have spoken to the authority or not.
17. Take photographs of any injuries and date them.
18. If other children or persons witnessed incidents ask them whether they would be prepared to put their statement of what they say in writing.
19. Check your child's social media accounts and messages. Monitor his or her mobile phone to check for bullying and if evidence is on phone or computer record the evidence by taking copies. Then report it to school in writing.
20. Remember oral conversation should not be the only thing relied upon. Make sure everything gets recorded in writing.
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Sometimes a bullying situation reaches the stage where parents have been unable to resolve the matter themselves, and an external perspective can be useful. Our Education Lawyers can provide that advice and guidance, and look at the matter dispassionately.
If you feel or believe that your child is being bullied, then it helps to be as clear as you can about the details before you contact the school.
Speak to your child and try to write down as much of the detail about what happened as possible. This will help you to identify if there are any patterns to the bullying and keep a record for current and future use.
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