Schools and communities have embraced new, effective strategies and implemented programs to prevent bullying. Educating students about Tourette can be an important first step to prevent bullying. If a child’s fellow classmates are not properly educated about TS, the potential for bullying can increase, and the child is more likely to develop poor social skills, under-achieve academically and suffer from low self-esteem. When students understand TS, they generally become more comfortable with their classmate and are less likely to bully or to condone the bullying.
Stop Bullying through Education
The Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team at school, which includes the parent, can also identify strategies that can be written into the IEP to help stop the bullying. It may be helpful to involve your child, when appropriate, in the decision-making process. Such strategies include:
- Encouraging your school to enact innovative bullying prevention practices. An example of this involves promoting peer leadership to create a culture among the students of tolerance and acceptance of others.
- Identifying a trusted adult in the school whom your child can report to or go to for assistance.
- Having the school staff consistently reassure your child that he or she has a “right to be safe” and that bullying is not his or her fault.
- Determining how school staff will document and report bullying incidents.
- Agreeing, in advance, on how any students doing the bullying will be treated. It is important to recognize that students who bully have a unique set of issues which must also be addressed.
- Allowing the child to leave class early, or to sit closest to the classroom door so that he or she may unobtrusively leave first, to avoid hallway incidents.
- Holding separate meetings for school staff and classroom peers to help them understand TS.
- Including the child’s bus driver in any discussions of TS. Bullying often occurs on the school bus, and the driver can be an invaluable ally for your child.
- Educating peers about school district policies on bullying behavior, including how students who bully will be treated.
- Having the school staff discreetly shadow the student who has been bullied. Shadowing could be done in hallways, classrooms, playgrounds and while students arrive and depart from school.
There are advantages and disadvantages with any of these approaches, therefore working to establish good communication with the school is advisable to promote the best outcomes.
- Meet with the principal and share what you have heard about past bullying incidents, explain how the situation is affecting your child, and ask the principal what the school can do to keep your child safe at school and on the bus.
- Ask if the school has a written policy on bullying and harassment. If it does, request a written copy. Keep a written record of what happened at meetings, including names and dates and, if appropriate, share these written records with school administration and teachers.
- If a bullying situation is not resolved after meeting with the principal, you should send a brief, factual letter or e-mail to the district superintendent requesting a meeting to discuss the problem. Copies of this letter can also be sent to the principal, special education director, and chair of the school board. Be sure to keep a copy.
- You may also wish to contact a parent center or advocacy organization for assistance. Many Tourette Association chapters offer education, resources and other supports.
If bullying is based on your child’s TS or Tic Disorders, it may violate your child’s federal legal rights under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
In a letter to colleagues issued on October 26, 2010, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights informed all U.S. public schools that bullying and harassment, including harassment of one student by another, can be a form of prohibited discrimination. Federal law prohibits discrimination, including harassment, in education programs and activities, on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, gender or disability. However, not all bullying constitutes “harassment,” and the specific conduct must be examined by designated authorities to determine if civil rights were violated.