Children are often cruel to other children, and some children can be particularly cruel to a child with a disability. This cruelty can result in bullying. Any child who is different from the rest in any way, is at risk of being bullied. A child in a wheelchair or any child with a disability is at very high risk of being bullied.
Bullying is not a natural part of growing up. A bully often can not be ignored A bully can make life hell. A bully can steal a child's confidence, pride and self-esteem. At the minimum bullying can destroy what should be some of the best years of a person's life. At worst bullying can lead to depression, poor performance in school, early dropout and in extreme cases, further violence and even suicide. There have been too many cases of childhood bullying leading to suicide, for example in the case of Jared High, Phoebe Prince, and Megan Meier
Bullying is not something that will go away by itself. It usually goes on in some form until the bully is stopped. Often a parent is the only ally against a bully, but even more often parents are at a loss to know what to do.
If your child is being bullied, there are steps you can take. If your child has a disability and is being bullied, there are even more steps you can take.
General information about bulling and steps you can take:
* Bully Police: Features a state by state list of anti-bullying laws
* Stop Bullying Now: Has an "ask the expert" section where you can get advice about your particular situation
* Jared Story: Is a tribute to Jared High, a boy who was bullied, became depressed and eventually committed suicide. The website offers tips about what to do if you or your child is bullied.
Some websites discuss legal recourse you can take, for example Lawyers.com discusses the difficulties of suing for slander or libel and steps you can take including talking with a lawyer.
There are several excellent books on the subject of bullying. Two books which have been particularly well received are The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander: From Preschool to High School--How Parents and Teachers Can Help Break the Cycle and Nobody Knew What to Do: A Story about Bullying.
If your child is disabled consider finding a peer tutor. A peer tutor is an able-bodied child who has received some training to work with children with disabilities. Try to find a child who is not only bright, but who is also popular. According to the Kentucky Peer Tutoring program, the role of the peer tutor is to "assist students with disabilities ‘blend in’ with their peers and participate as much as possible in the everyday life of a high school student". If a Peer Tutoring Program does not exist in your area, lobby your school administration to create one.
Should all else fail, if your child is disabled and if your school has not taken sufficient steps to stop the bullying, you can file a formal complaint with the US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. But before taking this step, get more information about what you can expect them to do for you.