My student is being bullied

School bullying comes in many forms and often impacts how kids feel and perform in academic settings. Learn how you can address the situation if your student is being bullied.

Have an open, nonjudgmental conversation.

Your student may be embarrassed or nervous to open up, so consider the best time and space to have the conversation. When possible, it's best to talk soon after the incident occurred to help relieve emotional distress.

Eliminate distractions to ensure your student knows you are taking them seriously and actively listening. Your reaction can help your student gauge their emotions. Do your best to stay calm as you discuss the situation. Listen without interrupting or jumping to conclusions.

Here’s additional guidance on how to remain supportive and nonjudgmental:

  • Avoid using harsh language or blaming the student.
  • Reassure your student that you want to help them find a solution while avoiding making promises you can't keep.
  • Ask your student how they felt when the bullying happened, and honor their feelings by acknowledging the hurt they experienced. Gentle, open-ended questions will help foster trust.
  • Relate to your student’s situation, if possible, to encourage them to share what happened and how they feel.

Investigate the incident.

In some cases, you'll need to have separate conversations with everyone involved. First, speak to the student being bullied and then any witnesses before talking to the person (or group of people) accused of bullying. If a group of people is involved in the bullying, try to prevent them from talking to one another during the investigation.

Address urgent situations.

If the student is being physically threatened, let them know that you’ll do everything you can to ensure their safety. Contact the appropriate authorities in the school and escalate the situation immediately. If your student is very upset or shows signs of self-injury, don’t leave them alone. Get help immediately.

Make a plan.

Decide what to do next based on your conversations. Offer support and guidance, even if you and your student agree that the situation isn’t serious enough to be escalated. If the incident warrants reporting, explain the school policies and help them report the situation accordingly. Where possible, ask staff members, such as social workers, psychologists or the principal, to support you and your students.

Conflict resolution and peer mediation are not appropriate responses to bullying situations. Bullying involves an imbalance of power and is a form of abuse. Conflict resolution and peer mediation are appropriate when both parties share responsibility which is not the case for bullying behavior.

Follow up.

Check in with your students to see how they’re doing in the days and weeks that follow. Ask if the situation has been resolved and if they feel comfortable at school.

Provide ongoing support but don't take it all on yourself. Keep other staff members or experts engaged in helping you handle the incident.