12 Things You May Have to Do When Your Child Is Falsely Accused of Bullying Someone
Between the work we do at Yoursphere for youth, and at Yoursphere for Parents, we strive to help educate families about cyberbullying. Our goal is to provide solutions to this ongoing problem with our focus on teaching millions of families what it means to be a bully, online or off, and what to do if your child or your child’s friend is being bullied. I’ve appeared in a documentary on the subject of cyberbullying, Submit the Documentary, and have provided expert parent advice for Kids in the House.
The tremendous focus on anti-bullying education over the last few years has been effective. Statistics show that many types of bullying are on the decrease with the help of these school-based programs. These results show that we are all listening, learning, making better choices and having the necessary conversations with our children. While this is noteworthy progress, conversely, it seems more people are throwing around the word “bully” and using it as a catchall to wrongfully make accusations or complaints against a person.
A “bully” or “cyber-bully” is someone who repeatedly harasses another to be mean, cruel, disrespectful, hurtful or unkind in person or online. Someone that’s cruel, unkind or hurtful to you or your child on a rare or occasional (one or two times) basis is an adult or child that is being mean. That doesn’t excuse the behavior, but it’s important to realize the difference between being a bully and being mean, so that when we’re teaching our kids or are identifying the behavior, we know the difference.
In my family we had the unfortunate occurrence of a parent accusing my son of being a bully and taking that accusation to the police.
These are the 12 things I did, with the involvement of my husband and my son’s school, when this happened. It is what I recommend you consider if the same happens to you.
- Contact the police and find out who was involved.
- Talk to your child. Ask them what they know.
- Request a meeting with your child’s school.
- Ask the school to investigate and get a copy of the report.
- Call the police and let them know of the school’s findings.
- Ask the school to set up a meeting with the parent who is accusing your child of bullying behavior.
- Meet with the school district climate officer (or other school-type liaison).
- Communicate the steps you have taken with the police.
- Go to the parent who has made the accusation and request to have a conversation.
- If the parent avoids you, send them a certified letter requesting to talk.
- Use the situation as an opportunity to teach your child that it’s important to stand up for yourself and others even when dealing with another adult, or parent, that is unable to do the right thing.
- Document the school’s findings with the police, so that your child’s name and reputation will be clear and the police will know the accuser reported inaccurate information.
Those steps took approximately three months to rectify the situation.
Here’s the back story:
After receiving a call from the police department that my son was involved in bullying another student and causing an injury, I asked the police who the child was and who the parent was.
I immediately spoke to my son about the information I received from the police. That’s when I learned that my son has PE with this student, they’ve been on opposite basketball teams, they aren’t friends and don’t have any classes together. My son stated that he’s never even directly spoken to the other boy.
Since the police had been told there was an incident of bullying and that an injury had occurred, I assumed that surely the school would be aware of this, especially since the school that my children attend does an effective job of staying on top of behavior and incident issues on campus. I requested a meeting the very next morning with the principal and vice principal. We gave our son a hug and told him we’d work through this together.
In the meeting, I asked the school administrators: Were there any incidents involving my son reported from the previous day? Were there any reports of my son’s behavior towards another student? Did the other parent come talk to them about an incident with their child? They looked puzzled as to why I was asking these questions so before responding they checked their incident report logs. No incidents had transpired or had been reported.
I told them about the call from the police department and the accusations against my son. I then asked the school to investigate since no one had brought this complaint to their attention. If another parent was going to call the police, I wanted confirmation from the school as to whether what reportedly transpired either did or did not happen.
The school administrators promised to investigate. They shared with me that the boy whose parent had made the complaint had previously reported an incident with another group of students that did not involve my son. Administrators said that they addressed the issue with the students.
A day later, the school came back after conducting their investigation with teachers and students. They found that there was no bullying incident between the boys. According to their findings, my son was playing basketball in PE and at one point he went in for a lay up and knocked into the other student.
After confirming with the school that the accusation of bullying with causing an injury was inaccurate, I called the police back to let them know of the school’s findings. I asked them to remove his name and the complaint. Unfortunately, the police said they could not do this.
I was shocked and outraged to learn that our son’s name, along with the false accusation would stay with the police. Sadly, any person can call the police and make a complaint and even when the complaint is independently proven to be unfounded, the police cannot remove your child’s name or the words “bully” or “injury” (or any other term) from their records. Because it’s not an actual case, and merely a complaint, there is nothing to dismiss. Knowing that my son’s name is in a database with erroneous information tied to his name is not ok in the slightest bit. I learned that the only way for this complaint to be removed, was to have it retracted by the parent who reported it.
At this point, armed with that information, I went back to the school and asked to set up a meeting with the parent who made the false report. My goal was to have the school explain that their complaint was unfounded and then ask the parent to retract it so that my son’s name would be cleared. The school called the other parent, but they declined to meet. Later, the school declined making a second request for a meeting, because they expressed that their expertise is working with students, not parents. They suggested I meet with the school district climate manager. The climate manager helps facilitate working through school climate issues.
Ultimately, I did meet with the school climate officer and I explained the situation. She acknowledged my concern but said she couldn’t help because they couldn’t force the parent who made the accusation to correct the information with the police department.
I then made another attempt with the police department by alerting them of the steps I’d taken and requesting that they, based on that, consider removing the inaccurate report. They declined for the same reasons mentioned earlier. They urged me not to worry, however, since it was never a case. I told them I didn’t care that it wasn’t a case, frankly, and that it wasn’t about worrying. I only cared that my son’s name was in a police database with these words next to his name: bully and injury.
Since the police couldn’t help, the school wouldn’t help, and the school climate officer also declined, the next step that I took on my son’s behalf was to go to the parent who made the complaint. My rationale was: A reasonable person, particularly a parent with a child of their own, would be willing to right their unintended wrong. I went to their home and the parent wouldn’t come to the door.
Since an old-fashioned face-to-face request to speak in person didn’t work, I sent a letter via FedEx, signature required, with a written request to the parent to retract their complaint with the police department for the well-being of my son.
What I got in return was a call from that same police department. This parent was now complaining that they were being harassed.
At this point, we chose to view the situation as an opportunity to teach our son, and our other children, that it’s important to stand up for yourself. In the process, you may hit some road bumps, but it’s important you persevere in doing the right thing. It’s never ok to accuse someone of being a bully when they’re not. It’s important to get your facts straight before you make hasty decisions that have real consequences, and if and when you do make a mistake in judgment, you need to be willing to face up to that and take the necessary measures to reverse any damage that’s been caused. They now know more than this parent ever will.
At the end of the day, the good news is: I found a way to clear the false information related to my son’s name. With the help of a creative-thinking police department employee who understood my concern, she had me call in and report the school’s findings, so that in the complaint, there would be documentation that showed what the parent reported was a lie.