I have an 8-year-old Asperger son. How do you handle when he is bullied and the school administration seems to give you the brush off. My son act-outs when he is under stress or in an unstructured situation. In all of those instances, he gets the detentions. When I call in about his being bullied, nothing is done, or the bully gets spoken to in their classroom, as a sort of blanket discussion. How do I handle this?
Bullying is abusive behavior by one or more students against a victim or victims. It can be a direct attack (e.g., teasing, taunting, threatening, stalking, name-calling, hitting, making threats, coercion, stealing, etc.), or something more subtle (e.g., malicious gossiping, spreading rumors, intentional exclusion, etc.). Both result in victims becoming socially rejected and isolated.
Unfortunately, many parents have attempted to reconcile such victimization by going to school officials and requesting that something be done – only to be told that either (a) the bullying is not, in fact, occurring at all, or (b) the school is - or will - address the issue.
As one Aspergers student stated:
“I AM such a child with Asperger's Syndrome. Bullying hurts so badly. In my first secondary school, I was being discriminated by the teachers, especially the Head of Year. Whenever I was being bullied, they turned a blind eye, whereas when I fought back, I was suspended and the bullies weren't even punished. I do not want to see the hallway where I took those internal suspensions. I later quit that school. Just because we are "disabled", as the government puts it, does NOT mean we are brain-dead and do not have feelings. We actually feel feelings more deeply than most people, only we cannot describe them properly. More than 3 times, I have contemplated suicide because I have been bullied and cannot express my feelings. If someone bullies someone else into suicide, is that not murder? How many more times must we, the "disabled" community, be tortured to the end of our tether before people FINALLY understand that we are still people?”
Often times, after months or years of getting no results from school officials, many parents of Aspergers students have to either (a) move their child to a different school, or (b) quit work and stay at home in order to home-school their child.
So, what can parents do who are at their wits-end in trying to get bullying stopped – once and for all?! Here’s how to take the bully by the horns and get school officials to take you seriously:
1. Document all aspects of the bullying incidents involving your Aspergers youngster. Keep meticulous notes and records, just as if you are the attorney representing your youngster. Ask your Aspie to do the same. If you want to make it a fun exercise, grab a long-handled spoon and pronounce on your Aspie, "I now dub you a special junior attorney." Advocate for – and empower – your Aspergers child. Who knows, he may even become an attorney some day, or find a profession that utilizes such skills.
2. Conduct an interview with your Aspergers youngster, and then write down a summary of the bullying incidents in bullet point fashion.
3. If there were witnesses to any of the bullying incidents, get their statements – and signatures on those statements (do this in front of a grown-up if the witnesses are minors). Do not forget to add dates, names, times, and all the “who, what, when, where and why” information you can find.
4. Write down any comments made by teachers or other school officials. These written notes may not seem like much at the time, but later, they may be a deciding point for justice in your Aspie’s favor. In addition, these records may aid in procedural changes that could dramatically reduce bullying in your school.
5. The parent must prove that the school district actually knew about the bullying offenses, but refused to take action to correct it. So, be sure to notify your child’s school district. The first element that must be satisfied to win a peer-harassment complaint is to give the school district "actual notice" of the incidents. Address the notification to a specific person and date the letter. The letter should be sent via certified mail, UPS or Fed Ex to the District Superintendent with courtesy copies (CC) to your child’s teacher(s) and principal.
6. In the notification, request an Acknowledgement Letter to Confirm Receipt of Notification. An acknowledgement letter is written to confirm receipt of documents in the office this notification is used in official purposes. The authority in the office where you have submitted your notification writes this letter to let you know that the notification has reached the right place. The letter should convey that your notification has been received and how much time will be required to complete the formalities involved.
7. Be sure to write the letter to a person who has the authority to investigate - and the authority to correct - the wrong.
8. State the past - or continuing - discriminatory activity against your youngster. If you have not been documenting the history of the bullying incidents, now is a good time to start.
9. State that the school district has control over both the physical site of the discrimination and over any school personnel involved. You may want to give examples of changes the district has recently made to the school facilities, curriculum or schedule – all of which demonstrate control.
10. Explain that the discrimination was not a single act – but was severe and pervasive.
11. Tell how the discrimination excluded your Aspergers youngster from participation in certain school activities, or denied his/her benefits to which other students enjoyed. One of the elements you must prove to prevail on a peer-harassment claim is that the harassment was "so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it can be said to deprive the victims of access to the educational opportunities or benefits provided by the school."
12. Explain what you would like the school to do. Suggest what the school may do to stop the discrimination or to fix the harm the discrimination has done to your youngster.
13. Ask for a copy of a school district grievance procedure under Section 504 (even if your youngster has an IEP under IDEA). Not having this information may result in continued discrimination.
14. State that you expect investigation and/or effective corrective action. Should the individual receiving the letter fail to investigate, or does not take effective corrective action, you may claim that the district showed deliberate indifference to the discrimination.
15. Add a date that you expect to hear back from the district in regards to your notification.
16. Lastly, you may wish to include the following "Note to School Officials" along with your notification letter (copy and paste into a Word document, then print-out and add as an attachment):
Note to School Officials—
The school district is a recipient of federal financial assistance. Public schools depend on the continued flow of federal funds. This depends, in part, on their compliance with Federal Laws.
Harassing conduct may take many forms, including verbal acts and name‐calling, graphic and written statements (which may include use of cell phones or the Internet), or other conduct that may be physically threatening, harmful, or humiliating. Harassment does not have to include (a) intent to harm, (b) be directed at a specific target, or (c) involve repeated incidents. Harassment creates a hostile environment when the conduct is sufficiently severe, pervasive, or persistent so as to interfere with or limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or opportunities offered by a school. When such harassment is based on race, color, national origin, sex, or disability, it violates the civil rights laws that OCR enforces.
A school is responsible for addressing harassment incidents about which it knows or reasonably should have known. In some situations, harassment may be in plain sight, widespread, or well‐known to students and staff, such as harassment occurring in hallways, during academic or physical education classes, during extra-curricular activities, at recess, on a school bus, or through graffiti in public areas. In these cases, the obvious signs of the harassment are sufficient to put the school on notice.
In other situations, the school may become aware of misconduct, triggering an investigation that could lead to the discovery of additional incidents that, taken together, may constitute a hostile environment. In all cases, schools should have well‐publicized policies prohibiting harassment and procedures for reporting and resolving 10complaints that will alert the school to incidents of harassment.
When responding to harassment, a school must take immediate and appropriate action to investigate or otherwise determine what occurred. The specific steps in a school’s investigation will vary depending upon:
- the age of the student(s) involved
- the nature of the allegation
- the size and administrative structure of the school
- the source of the complaint
- and other factors
In all cases, however, the inquiry should be prompt, thorough, and impartial.
If an investigation reveals that discriminatory harassment has occurred, a school must take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the harassment, eliminate any hostile environment and its effects, and prevent the harassment from recurring. These duties are a school’s responsibility even if the misconduct also is covered by an anti‐bullying policy, and regardless of whether a student has complained, asked the school to take action, or identified the harassment as a form of discrimination.
The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook
• Anonymous said... We are having trouble in this area too!my son is only just being diagnosed aspergers at 12!he finds it impossible to walk away which also causes trouble!!he is suffering badly with anxiety and is feeling very sad and alone as he says he is uncool to be seen with even by kids who quiet like him.so sad.
• Anonymous said... I only just realised this was happening to my aspie son (aged 12). He's in year 7 at a new school with no friends. He was being stirred by 3 boys from his class. I spoke to his school & they were fantastic in speaking to the other boys & i'm hoping thats the end of it. My only mistake was approaching one of the mothers i knew of those boys, these children are ignorant because their parents are ignorant. She told me "she felt sorry for her child because he was forced to sit next to & be friend my son". Unfortunately we have no control as to the lack of understanding & compassion with these people, what we can do is help, support & do our best to teach our kids the social cues they just dont get. My advise work with the schools, the only person our kids have got to fight their battles is us & they deserve it. They deserve to be happy.
• Anonymous said... I had trouble with this because my Aspergers child didn't like anyone around him, had behavior problems, and we dealt with a lot of anger with him because he was so easily frustrated. We found out when he was 5 and now is 13. He still has a hard time making friends but has been called the bully and Has been bullied and had to go on an anti depressant because of how sad he was feeling. It can be difficult. Just Advocate for your child and don't let them push you around.
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