FEEDBACK Regarding the online bullying of a five-year-old schoolchild’s parent by another parent whose child is in the same kindergarten class (November 2):
Ellie – The column that showed that online bullying/shaming could arise from seemingly small incidents easily explained, prompted many readers’ responses. However, how to handle public shaming is still much debated.
Reader #1 – “Your advice to contact the school was spot on. However, the bullied parent needs to reply to everyone contacted, in a very polite, non-threatening manner, and succinctly explain what happened.
“If she doesn’t, then this militant bullying will NOT end and this couple and their children will have that on them forever – it won’t die down or go away.
“Your statement was wrong, that the husband should know that even the appearance of a mistake regarding children’s food can cause trouble.
“This family did nothing wrong. The militant bully needs to be corrected quickly.”
Reader #2 – “I agree that there’s little to be gained from escalating the situation.
“However, I suggest that her first response should be to contact the mother privately, explain what happened and after that, ignore it.
“Obviously if the other parent’s bullying persists, she needs to protect herself.
“But the school has nothing to do with a private birthday party and has no reason to be involved. The same applies to other parents.
“It’s likely that this incident will escalate as more individuals get involved.
“Hopefully after the offended parent understands what happened, it will die a natural death.”
Reader #3 – “I’ve been adult-bullied and in my experience the bullying doesn’t stop until you take some action.
“What I would suggest that the bullied mother do, is to send an e-mail reply to EVERYONE who had received the initial e-mail, plus copy any school administrators (teacher, principal, trustee, etc.) who may be involved on the periphery.
“She should clearly state in clear, factual, calm, non-threatening language what had actually transpired and the reasons for it (i.e. not having enough space for 40 children, so just invited the 20 boys, and one child was still hungry, etc.).
“In my experience, this exposes the bully for exactly what she is, shows the other parent’s maturity, and shows the bully that her victim won’t back down.
“This’ll also inform the other parents of her side of the story. In my experience, this is where the bullying usually stops.
“However, it’s still possible that this bullying mother will not let it go and will send another e-mail, possibly to everyone on the email chain.
“If so, the innocent parent should reply to only her and advise that she’s responded to her continued “questioning” and will not engage with her any further.
“Also, she should inform her that she’s retained copies of all e-mails, and that any further action would be considered harassment and would be dealt with by involving the appropriate authorities.
“If bullies think they can intimidate you they won’t stop.
“When they see that their own actions can be used against them, or they’re made to look immature or silly themselves, they usually stop.
“If not, the bullied person has the evidence to proceed with more formal (legal) action.”
Reader #4 – “Not sure why you’d burden already overburdened principals and teachers with this issue.
“It has nothing to do with the school. Why ask the school to solve a parent issue? Schools have enough to deal with. They shouldn’t be loaded with more workload.”
I was being harassed at university by a peer group. It traumatized me.
I’m 90% sure much of it was intentionally done out of envy. I was a stellar student before the bullying.
I think it was also done because they knew they could get away with it.
None of this was fair to me.
Don’t Know Where to Turn
Write a report detailing the dates of the events, and the manner in which you were harassed. Keep copies.
Do an online search of which department in your University has responsibility to deal with complaints regarding harassment/bullying.
If the incidents had sexual, racist, or other defined elements, search whether several departments hear them. Send a copy of your report to each, plus the head of your faculty of studies, and the institution’s Human Rights Office.
Follow up within a week, questioning whether your report was received, and when you’ll be invited to meet authorities about it.
Tip of the day:
If bullied online, respond with guidance from your workplace’s or professional standards and, if necessary, legal and/or police advice.