When Teachers Bully

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What do we do when our children are bullied by teachers? My son has a teacher who actually calls the kids wieners and makes fun of them if they are struggling. He has a mug and sign in the classroom that say “I see stupid people.”

Unfortunately, this is not uncommon. You see it more often in middle school and high school. This teacher is allowed to continue because the principal or superintendent don’t really see the behavior as a problem. How you handle it depends in part on the age of the students.

If elementary school, your strategy needs to be… different than high school. Here is a general strategy. But, it will not be as effective if this is happening in high school – people tend to believe that older kids need to learn how to deal with jerks. Most of us had a few jerks when we were in school. It was viewed as a learning experience.

If you go to this page, you’ll find articles and resources that will help you deal with bullying behavior at school:

Advise the Administrators

Put any issues in writing.  Write a nice polite letter where you advise the principal and superintendent about what is happening (the problem) and what you think should be done about it (your solution).

The tone of your letter should not be complaining but advising them of this problem so they can take action. If you have a copy of our From Emotions to Advocacy book, you will find sample letters in the book that will help you.

Next Step: The School Board

If this doesn’t result in a change and you can’t get the administrators to take responsibility, meet with your school board member and educate him/her. You may want to invite your school board member to have breakfast or lunch with you, then describe the problem. If you take this step, it’s very important that you have documented the problems and your attempts to resolve them in writing.

Make copies of the publication below about Harassment and provide copies to the principal, superintendent, and school board members.

There are some excellent publications from the U. S. Dept of Education and Office of Civil Rights about this issue:

  • An excellent resource for parents, teachers and others who are trying to protect kids is a publication from the Office of Civil Rights, Protecting Students from Harassment and Hate Crime: A Guide for Schools. It includes a section on the definition of harassment based on disability and provides step-by-step guidance for developing a district’s written anti-harassment policy.
  • Free From EdPubs.org (ED001366B) Preventing Bullying: A Manual For Schools and Communities. This document addresses the problem of bullying in schools and defines bullying, discusses the seriousness of this behavior and the effectiveness of a comprehensive approach. The Manual presents strategies for teachers, students, and parents to use when dealing with bullying situations. It also provides examples of innovative and successful approaches used by schools in different parts of the country.

Get Support from a Child Psychologist

Get a child psychologist to meet with the person who has power and describe the damage this guy is doing to the children.  Write a follow up letter after the meeting.

However, if this is happening to older high school kids, you are not as likely to get a response that will satisfy you.

When I had jerk teachers, my parents let me know they believed in me, that they agreed the person was a jerk, that the school year would soon be over and I’d be free. The fact that they believed in me, and agreed that the person’s behavior was bad helped because I valued their opinions more than I valued the bad teacher’s opinions (or slogans on coffee cups). They also taught me that there are jerks in the world and I had to learn how to deal with them.

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04/15/2013 2:41 pm

I have a 13 year old son. He’s attending a middle school. One of his teachers has been harrasing him from the first day of junior high. She has belittled him in front of the class. She has embarrassed him in front of the class. She has punished him for not wanting to talk to her, when she thinks he needs to talk. This has affected my sons curriculum & had caused him to become depressed. Some of the statements she’s made to him is,”if your going to read & act like a second grader… I will treat you like one.” That’s just one of the many hurtful statements she’s made to my son in the front of the class. She has made him sit in the back of the classroom from the beginning of this year. I’ve met with the teacher, principal, asst principal & spoken to the Superintendent of the district about all of the disturbing and harrasing issues. Help!

03/24/2013 2:12 pm

Just look at the comments on this thread. After doing so, everyone should be painfully aware of what happens when “public” education becomes “government” education, and teachers can do whatever they want because they have a contract and a union protecting them. The comments here are appalling, and are no different than what i am going through with my 5th grade son. The administration wants to help, but can do nothing because of the union. So, should I simply allow this teacher to abuse my son? No, after exhausting all attempt to resolve this within the system, I’ve hired a lawyer and will sue the teacher. This is the first time the teacher has shown any concern. I have her attention. I will lose, because of union support, but this has brought an unwanted spotlight on the teacher. I’m convinced this is the only way to stop the abuse.

03/12/2013 11:24 pm

i have an issue with my daughters high school. 3 times she has been diagnosed with pdd, the superentendant emailed me and said he didnt believe it. she has never been in trouble till high school then all of a sudden like 5 asd’s. she gets in trouble for things others dont. kids make fun of her teacher calls her a liar, even when kids admit they did it. she is now on deppression meds and anxiety pills. she wanted to quit school threatened to hurt herself. we went to oregon, but had to come home due to family illness. she was there two weeks and did amazing, loved school. wasnt taking any meds there now she is panicing again. something dont add up. the superintendant and staff are all tight and his wife is the counselor, so there is litterally no one to get help from, what do i do?
any suggestions would be appreciated.

03/12/2013 6:54 pm

My child has been harassed and questioned about everything you can think of and because they keep getting caught in a lie the teachers have rebelled looking for everything under the sun no person is perfect and if they search for imperfections in every child you will find what you look for I have done all the steps they do not work there must be accountability. The same accountability if I was some wild devious liar as these sad excuse for leaders pretend to be.

03/06/2013 11:32 pm

My son has been bullyed by kids at his school i have talk to everybody i k in the school and they dont seem to help they call him a lieer i dont k what to do it hurts me that my kid dose not feel safe in school thats not how he should feel teachers should be helping kids not calling them names and getting away with it i just dont k what else to do my heart brakes for my son hes a good kid

03/05/2013 7:19 pm

My son is 9..about 45 lbs and his teacher is also the principle. He has been harassing my son and physically abusing him. So far he has jerked him by his wrists causing him to hit his elbow leaving a bruise as well on his wrist which I have photos of. He has jerked items such as tote bag out of his hand causing him to get burns again photos. He makes fun of him in front of the class. The rest of the teachers in this school are the same as they did it to my oldest who in the end dropped out of school. I do not know what to do. When I reported in the past it only made it worse. Please help.

03/04/2013 12:40 am

MICHAELINA – I am so sorry to hear about the problems your daughter is having with the music teacher/bully. My suggestion would be to express your concerns in writing in the form of a letter. You need to give dates and times, where the bullying occurred and exactly what happened. Every time an incident happens, send the principal and school board a letter. If you don’t put it in writing, it is as if it never happened. Good luck to you and your daughter.

03/01/2013 12:59 am

My daughter is a senior in high school. She has been having seizures for over a year now and still being evaluated by doctors (no 504 plan done yet). Music is her life. She has been accepted into the music program at a local college. Unfortunately, she’s stressed b/c the high school band teacher has been bullying her off and on this school year. My daughter used to be one of her favorites. Since my daughter started having seizures, the teacher has treated her badly: tells her she’s lazy; says she’s “faking it”. She’s even kept her from participating in graded activities as a result of the seizure episodes; the teacher has them called panic attacks and tantrums. I have spoken with the principal in the past w/o resolution. I spoke again with the principal, as well as the school board, but I don’t have hope for results. Any suggestions?

02/11/2013 10:16 am

my son’s 4th grade science teacher threw a dryerase marker at him and hit him in the leg it left a welt mark thru the pants this. incident was witnessed by all of his classmates. HE SAID THIS SAME TEACHER IS ALWAYS SLAPPING OTHER UPSIDE THE back of the head .Administration placed her on administrative leave for one day w/pay pending investigation and brought her back to school to teach what do I do I made a police report but, where do I go from here?

02/05/2013 10:05 am


Document when she does these things. If she refuses to move you, ask your parents to have a meeting with her—requesting what you want, not complaining. If it doesn’t get resolved at that point, go over her head.

02/04/2013 12:25 pm

I am a student and I have been singled out by my math teacher. She is a bit “old school” and I think she is ready for retirement. She takes her frustration out on me. I once asked her to move me to the front of the class so I could see and that the bo in front of me was unintentionally blocking by view. She responded saying I should get glasses. I have 20/20 vision but my parents have tried humoring her by getting my eyes checked. The doctor diagnosed me with convergance insufficiancy, and a gave my parents a note to give to my teacher. She responded by saying “Are you sure he’s a real doctor?” Very unprofessional: why would you refuse to accept a legal document? And why would you deny the request to sit at the front to pay attention?

11/29/2012 3:17 am

I am in grade 7. my teacher is always bullying the kids in my class. He says he only resorts to this sort of behaviour because he is sick and tired of the attitudes of the people in our class. My parents have never liked this teacher and other parents think the same. He is generally cruel to kids for no other reason than “I hate kids” yes he actually said that. Why is he working with kids if he hates them? I seriously don’t know! Thank you for the support you have given me and I believe you are doing a great job as i would reccomend this site to any in the same position.

11/17/2012 6:41 am

I need to know. what documents I bring with me when I go before the community college Dean, who has a meeting with I the Student and my instructor whom I know to be bully me in class?

11/13/2012 3:03 am

I have worked 7 yrs in the SpEd dept. at the local school system teaching sign language to nonverbal,hearing students for communication. I witnessed the certified classroom teacher assault a student with autism and reported it up the chain of command all the way to the director of schools. Neither the special ed supervisor or the director of schools responded to my written report- not even to ask the child’s name or to get details of the abuse. I made a report (as mandated by law) to CDS, and made calls to the state dept. of Ed in TN to make them aware. However, because I was neither a parent or teacher, they would not take my statement. Shortly after I was fired. Unfortunately I was told that a school is a government entity and has sovereign immunity and TN is “fire at will” state. Who protects kids when they can’t speak for themselves?

03/02/2012 3:03 pm

My fourteen year old son who is in the 9th grade had a sub (teacher) in his Spanish class. He had no prepared lesson the first day and gave the students a free period. He even allowed the students to turn their chairs and play cards. The second day he did show a movie but allowed the students to play cards while the movie was on. He walked up to my son and one of his classmates and said why are you two so loud? why are you sitting so close together? Is he your boyfriend? Do you want to kiss him? Some of the students then made vulgar comments like: They”re faggots. He then laughed along with the students instead of reprimanding them. This is unacceptable to my wife and myself. To be a lazy or lousy teacher is one thing. To go as far as sexual harassment and then to laugh with the students when they chime in is unforgivable.Shame!!!!!

02/08/2012 8:07 pm

My friends 14 year old son just got suspended for 3.5 days for being in the halls. He said he was going to the bathroom and back to his class. He has been known to be trouble some but his father and I believe this is a little extreme of a punishment for going to the bathroom and back. Since October he has been suspended twice for fighting and this time he’s also been kicked off the bus for sassing the bus driver or not moving from the seat he was in b/c the driver wanted him in the back not the front. I by no means am saying he’s a good kid but he’s not bad and to me every time he gets in trouble the punishment seems a little extreme. Is there anything we can do to stop the extremeness of his punishment? If anyone knows of something please respond.

ms love
12/20/2011 7:21 pm

Thank you so much for the information Ms. B. I do put everything in writing. That little information you gave me means a lot to me. I never had this problem. Thank you. I was looking for help and wrightslaw gave me an answer and hope. God is good.

12/18/2011 7:49 pm

MsLove – Look at your child’s IEP goals, read the Wright’s books, learn how to advocate for your child! No one else has more to lose than you, other than your child! Goals should be based on where your child is in his specific area of need, then you will need to begin monitoring his progress. Do everything and I do mean EVERYTHING in writing. Contact your state’s parent training and information center, read ALL the books by the Wrights, make yourself an expert on your kid’s disability and the special education law. YOU CAN DO THIS!

ms love
12/16/2011 8:40 pm

I am so scared that my child is not learning in school. His teacher is not teaching. All the teacher does is let him play chess all day. Even though my child has a disabity I still know he can learn. His teaher is not teaching him and picks on him for no reason. No one will listen.I’m scared that he’s not going to complete his IEP goals. What should i do?

12/16/2011 2:53 pm

We are going through this with my fifth grader. He has been bullied by a teacher. She makes him sit facing a wall for hours and sometimes days at a time. He has to sit in second grade for weeks at a time. This is their discipline policy, BIST. It is very bizzarre, prison like environment. I have asked the teacher and principal what he has done? Tlking or getting out of his seat. This is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. There is alot more to this story, to much to write here. I am in Missouri would like to know if anybody else has had these problems.

12/15/2011 7:05 pm

My daughter is in middle school and she came to me about her teacher picking on several boys and one more than the others saying he has ADD, that his parents should beat him. yelled at kids to shut up. tells students they’re undisciplined and worthless. then a para educator grabbed my daughter several times after telling my daughter to go to the office and blocked her way. and when my daughter tried to go around that’s when the woman grabbed her . My daughter told her stop dont touch me, your not suppose to touch kids, pushed the woman to run to the office. The woman laughed after my daughter and hollered call the police. she hit me. My daughter was cited and nothing happened to the para.

10/30/2011 10:59 pm

I went to a meeting at my child’s school this week, and I think my child is being bullied by a teacher and the principal. During the meeting she would ask my child questions and then repeatedly interrupt her while she was trying to answer. The teacher was argumentative and sarcastic to my child and myself, and the school principal sat and did nothing. The principal did not acknowledge us at the start of or at the end of the meeting and even slammed the door to the conference room when he left. We did not “take the bait,” and remained calm and polite during the meeting. My child is in high school and has had a very difficult time for the last two years. We have filed a state complaint against our district and won. I think my daughter is being bullied and retaliated against because we filed a complaint. Is there anything we can do?

10/28/2011 12:36 pm

We had this problem when my son was in 6th grade. I actually found out from parents of other children who reported what this teacher was doing to my son. (my son, at that age, was not a good reporter) After approaching first the school principal then the school board without anyone taking it seriously, I wrote to both the principal and SB again, telling them if this teacher’s behavior continued, I would go to the newspaper. THIS finally got their attention. The teacher abruptly stopped all bullying tactics in the classroom – at least for that year!

10/28/2011 11:41 am

I want to take a few minutes of your time to say a very heartfelt THANK YOU for all the information you share and also your wisdom. As a parent of an autistic child and a member of the autism community, I am trying to educate myself and others on all things that involve … autism and disabilities. If I can learn that and maybe even more, I intend to give back as often and as much as I possibly can. Again, thank you for this website and please continue the GREAT JOB you all are doing!! Much love and respect to each and every one of you!!! 🙂

10/28/2011 11:41 am

I do agree that kids need to learn how to handle obnoxious ppl, they are everywhere!! But i disagree when it comes to a special needs child, mine are severe autistics and would never understand that it was not literal.They take everything at face value,and do not understand the meaning of just the little things. There is your difference. The special child would think they really are stupid or worse about themselves. That is wrong. If you already know that kids are struggling with self image why take it upon yourself to toughen them up , that will come later.

10/28/2011 11:34 am

My daughter’s teacher bullied her and even put her hands on her to the point where she reacted so explosively that its what actually initiated her being diagnosed as severely emotionally disturbed by the school and put in a special day class for ED kids. After all assessments were complete, the district’s experts said there is nothing wrong with her, she doesn’t even qualify for Spec Ed.

10/28/2011 11:23 am

My initial reaction to this was to tell the teacher, in as nice a way as possible, that it was inappropriate. If that doesn’t work, then I would send an e-mail to the principal advising that I attempted to work out differences with the teacher directly on such and such a date, but that I was unsuccessful, so now I’m turning to them for assistance.

Sometimes, depending on the school district, sending a letter on what they may view as a “benign” issue can turn a school off.

I understand the need for documentation – but I wouldn’t want to get a letter from my son’s school that he was failing, etc. I would prefer my son’s teacher to pick up the phone way before we got to that point to discuss difficulties he may be having in class.

Juan G
04/14/2011 7:15 am

What do you do if the bullying is at aimed parents by educators. The teachers and staff present a united stances against the ‘claims’ they report. Why aren’t a parents rights recognized and respected a clear hands-on- definition of a parent’s role and rights in the IEP process?

Teacher’s are given too much leeway and very little oversight. I found this out over the last 5 years as I advocated for my son.

02/22/2011 7:28 am

Janie, the bullying you speak of can result in a denial of FAPE. If you are not documenting the bullying in writing to the school, you should be, in as non threatening way as possible. I had a similar issue. 2 teachers who had never taught my son, bullied him relentlessly during class changes. He was not allowed to walk down a certain side of the hall, drink out of a certain water fountain, use a certain bathroom. He was coming home crying into my lap, asking, “Why do they treat me like a freak, Mom?” I began by asking, in writing, of teachers who did have him, if they were seeing behavior problems. They were not. I also had 17 emails I had saved over a 3 year period, documenting what a fine upstanding youn man he was. This gave me all the data I needed to put the building administrator on notice.

02/21/2011 9:03 pm

my son is in the 3rd grade he is being bully by his teacher. Teacher tells him he is a failer.

Sharon L.
10/04/2010 7:34 pm

Carolyn I agree with you that teachers do not read the IEP and often do not get a copy of the IEP. I always put a copy of the IEP in the mailbox and get the email address of the teachers for my son’s. This helped communication. I know we should not have to do this but it is better than fighing all of the time with the school. I understand what happened to your daughter and how a miscommunication with a teacher can get escalated and it always comes down on the student. I ended up requesting a behavior assessment and got one and we added it to the IEP. This held the teachers accountable for some of the triggers that cause escalation. What a difference it made.

10/03/2010 8:41 pm

Carolyn, I take a proactive approach. On back to school night, I take a copy of the IEP to the teacher. Accommodations & other important info are highlighted. I tell her how much I am looking forward to working with her. I tell her I know she must be terribly busy getting her classroom ready and she has many kids to get to know. I tell her I am giving her a copy of the IEP so she will have one less thing to do, something I want to take off her plate. The next day I send a thank you note, telling her how much I enjoyed meeting her; again stressing I am looking forward to working with her. I say I hope the copy of the IEP I provided to her will be helpful. I keep a copy of my note. Teachers always appreciate this. It goes a long way in building that relationship. You also have documentation she has seen the IEP.

10/03/2010 10:26 am

My daughter in this past year had a couple of teachers that knew she had severe ADHD and Bipolar Deprssion. She had an incident where she did not hear the teacher request to get off of the computer. The teacher just came up and unplug the computer and started to yell at her. She did this serveral times. My daughter got upset and start to yell at her. Make a long story short my daughter received two tickets for assault. And she fail her class. Many teacher never read the IEP or say they never get them or just never follow them.

09/30/2010 11:41 am

Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means.”-Albert Einstein

09/22/2010 1:37 am

Our son was bullied in 8th grade by his intervention specialist. He has Asperger’s. We were trying to get her to follow his IEP. She would scribe for him and then refuse to give him the notes until she made a copy. He would never get them. This also happened with classwork. She would scribe for him on tests, but would not write down everything he said. He pointed this out to her. She would tell him not to worry, she would be the one grading his tests and she knew what he meant. I tried talking to the school about this. We told them his IEP was not being followed. We begged for help. I was told my son needed psychological counseling. They would move him to another class, but he would lose his services. My son is now angry at all teachers and does not trust them. He is genuinely afraid. I wish I had read this article two years ago.

09/09/2010 10:27 am

I had a problem with a first grade teacher that bullied my daughter. This was very upsetting to me as it was the last weeks of school and my daughter would tell me that she didn’t want to go to school. This brought me alot of stress as I felt I was forcing my daughter to go into a situation that was harming her. I spoke to the principal and the teacher took it against my child when the principal talked to her about it, I had to confront the teacher this was a very hard situation as I felt helpless.

Elizabeth's dad
08/31/2010 9:10 pm

This is useful information. I only wish I’d known about it before writing a letter slamming the monster of a school psychologist we had to deal with…would have sugarcoated it a bit more.

08/31/2010 12:50 pm

A Phoenix family law attorney told her client that the local court does not consider “tutoring” to be an extra expense to be added in calculating child support unless the child is “seriously handicapped or mentally retarded”. The child a 9th grader diagnosed with Auditory Processing Disorder, and is years behind grade level in math, reading and writing. What citation of law mandates the judge recognize APD and not discriminate as to extra care/services needed by the child?

08/28/2010 6:49 am

Am I the only parent who finds the very notion of having to turn to advocates and attorneys to meet my child’s needs within the walls of an educational institution appalling?

I have an IDEA on how to argue away ‘MINIMAL BENEFIT’, furthermore, the ‘may’ words sprinkled around the statute need to be deleted

Until this is accomplished, realized potential, for the majority of special education students is simply not going to happen.

08/25/2010 12:01 pm

Many teachers attempt to use humor to build rapport with students. This can be a great strategy IF used appropriately. Generally it works best if the teachers poke fun at themselves – when doing this to students, they better make darn sure their relationship with that students makes that possible without creating hard feelings. As a former high school principal, I wouldn’t have come down on a teacher the way I would if they were, say, not complying with the terms of a student’s IEP, but I would let them know that this was not appropriate and insist that they find another way to create rapport with students that doesn’t cause students to feel humiliated. The classroom is supposed to be a safe, secure environment for everyone.

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