The below is excerpted from the “Consultation Cadre Listserv: A weekly forum for sharing and interchange.” A service from the UCLA Center: Mental Health in Schools: Program and Policy Analysis. May 23, 2011 Newsletter.
What do we do when it is the coach/teacher who is the bully?
“No child should ever be bullied by any adult, whether that adult is a coach, teacher, group leader, volunteer or parent. The pathways for dealing with each of these people in a child’s life are different, however. I’ll start with the coach. In the community where I live and work, coaches may be volunteers, part-time employees (hired to coach a specific sport) or teachers. They may be employed by the school district or they may work for a community athletic organization. There’s a different chain of command for each of these organizations. Here’s what I’d suggest:
1. Make sure that your child is truly being bullied. A single critical remark does not a bully make. While some coaches, especially volunteers, may not have the best communication skills, they may not be intentionally harassing your child. I’d suggest that the parent have a calm, reasoned conversation with their child and get details of what was said, how often this happens, and who the remarks were directed toward.
2. Once you are sure that this is a bullying situation, first talk to the coach or teacher. They may not be aware that their remarks seem like bullying and they’ll want to change.
3. If you’re not getting anywhere with the coach, move up the ladder. Schools should have an athletic director or someone in administration who’s in charge of athletics, or try talking to the building principal. This may take some persistence to find the right person. Once you find the right person, stay calm and reasoned in your discussion. Be prepared to provide details like what was said, how often the remarks were made, who else might have heard them. Athletic Associations have directors, too. Find out who it is and go to them.
4. If you’re still getting nowhere, keep moving up the ladder. Again, prepared to have a calm, reasoned, factual conversation with the school superintendent, school board, or the athletic association board of directors. If necessary, move beyond the local group to the regional or state-wide athletic oversight group. Always remember that this needs to be fact based.
5. Work on prevention at the same time as you work on redress. Volunteer to be an assistant coach or support the team in some other way. Your kid is less likely to be the target of bullying if you’re around. You’ll also have the chance to both witness the situation and to document it if needed. In some communities, you may be able to find an alternative way for your child to be involved in the sport. For example, if there’s a problem with a community association team, your child may be happier playing on a school team.”