Dear Your Teen:
My son is being bullied at school. His teacher said that it is just as much his fault. How can I help my son when there is no support in the school? What am I supposed to do?
EXPERT | Jason Culp
This is a tough one. In some cases, certain students behave in ways that contribute to the likelihood that they will be the victims of bullying. In other cases, the conflict between students does not rise to the level of bullying and is actually more of an equally negative give-and-take between both students.
Son Being Bullied, And Accused Of Bullying
This is perhaps the concept that the teacher was trying to communicate; there can be a give-and-take of peer conflict between the students that both are contributing equally. Sometimes, in these cases, one student will claim another student is bullying him. But he won’t realize his contributions to the negative dynamic in the pair. Some educators recommend that the mother talk to her son and help him assess whether or not he is contributing at all to the conflict. Once they have done so, they can decide whether bullying is occurring. If yes, the victim is never to blame. And they can confidently go back to the teacher in search of a resolution.
If Your Son Is Bullying:
In a true case of bullying, where there is an ongoing pattern of behavior that is intentional and there is a power imbalance between the students, I would be hard-pressed to assert that a student who was being bullied was at fault. If your teenager is not aggressing upon the other teen, and is not intentionally fanning the flames of conflict by in-person or digital means and the conflict continues, this is bullying and it requires adult intervention. In cases of true bullying, victim blaming is not the answer.
Jason Culp is the Head of Upper School, at Lawrence School in Cleveland, Ohio.