Is your child being bullied or subjected to violence?

How to tell if your child is being bullied or subjected to violence

It is important to recognize any signs that may indicate your child is being bullied or subjected to violence.

In order to help your child, you must listen carefully and be alert to any signs that could indicate that his or her recent behaviour may be due to victimization in the form of violence or bullying at school.  

The following tips can help you detect signs that your child is being bullied or subjected to violence:

  • Does your child show any symptoms of anxiety or depression (seems sad, unhappy or easily irritated)? If so, how long has this been going on?
  • Has your child suddenly lost interest in activities he or she used to enjoy?
  • Does your child suffer from low self-esteem (doesn’t feel good enough at school, or feels that others are better)?
  • Is your child afraid to go to certain places, like school, the shopping centre or the playground?
  • Has your child suddenly stopped using the Internet?
  • Does your child spend more time alone in his or her room than before? 
  • Have your child’s marks dropped for no apparent reason?
  • Does your child often tell you that he or she feels sick and doesn’t feel like going to school?
  • Is your child thinking about suicide, running away or dropping out?

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How you, as a parent or guardian, can act

How can you support your child?

If you discover or suspect that your child is a victim of violence or bullying:

  • Act immediately.
  • Remain calm. Your child will look to you for comfort.
  • Take the time to listen to your child.
  • Ask your child to describe the situation to you in detail, without blaming him or her for what has happened.
  • Offer your child support and the reassurance that you will find a solution.
  • Ask your child what he or she has done to try to put a stop to the situation.
  • Encourage your child to talk to a trusted adult at the school.
  • Encourage your child to report the incident to the school.
  • Tell your child to not try to get back at the perpetrator(s), since this could backfire.
  • Encourage your child to stay close to friends he or she can count on, if this is possible. When they go around as a group, they're less likely to be bullied and more able to defend themselves if they are bullied.
  • Advise your child to avoid, where possible, places where bullies are more likely to act out.
  • Talk to your child's teacher or teachers, other members of the school staff, a coach, or any other person who may know of the situation and could help your child to find a solution to it. Check to ensure that the latter are aware of what has been going on, and find out what they have done or plan to do about it. Ask to be kept apprised of the situation.
  • Keep an eye on your child's behaviour. After a few days, talk again with the people you contacted, if they haven't already gotten back to you.

If the situation is interfering with your child's schoolwork, ask for help from the school psychologist, counsellor or social worker, or from a social worker in a local health and social services centre (CSSS). You could also contact community organizations recognized for their competence in handling such matters.

Don't wait for the situation to degenerate. You can contact the school principal to report any cases of violence and bullying.

Steps to follow if your child is a victim of violence or bullying:

  • Contact the school principal to ensure that effective intervention involving your child and the perpetrator takes place in accordance with the school's action plan against bullying and violence at school. Section 96.12 of the Education Act states: "On receiving a complaint concerning bullying or violence, and after considering the best interest of the students directly involved, the principal shall promptly communicate with their parents to inform them of the measures in the anti-bullying and anti-violence plan."
  • If you have still not heard back from the principal, contact him or her again, this time in writing (e-mail or letter). Also, send a copy of your e-mail or letter to the director general of the school board.
  • You can also contact the student ombudsman designated by the school board:
    • if you are dissatisfied with the handling of the complaint, or with the measures taken by the school principal;
    • if you have followed the steps in the complaint process as established by the school board (sections 220.2 and 8 of the Education Act)

You can also get help from the school board in drafting a complaint or in any related matter (section 3 of the Regulation respecting the complaint examination procedure established by a school board).

If you feel that your child's safety is threatened, or if you believe that he or she is the victim of a criminal act (harassment, sexual aggression, threats, extortion, etc.), don't hesitate to contact the police. This is your right, regardless of the steps taken by the school to prevent and stop violence and bullying. 

Also take whatever measures are required to protect your child from cyberaggression.

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