Friday, January 15, 2010
* noted as presenting author
Background: Despite the majority of states having anti-bullying laws in place, it is estimated that over three million students are bullied moderately or severely every school year. One way school officials are alerted of bullying is through parents. However, little is known about parents' experiences when they do report bullying. Study objective: This study addresses the experiences of parents who request protection for their bullied children from school officials. This understanding takes place in the context with school officials who function under Indiana's anti-bully law. Methods: The qualitative tradition of interpretative phenomenology was used. This method looks to increase understanding and meaning while articulating particular practices. A hermeneutic circle of six Indiana University School of Nursing faculty and myself participated in analysis of a paradigm case, finding key themes and integrating Heideggarian philosophy as a framework to understanding. This interpretive account works toward illuminating the participants' experiences. Study design: After receiving I.R.B. approval from Indiana University, Indianapolis, this study was advertised throughout the state using brochures, newspaper interviews, Indiana School Social Workers list-serve, social networking groups such as Yahoo parent groups, and a personal web site sponsored by the University http://www.iupui.edu/~isfk400/james/james.html. A purposeful sample was used to find Indiana parents who had prolonged exposure to the phenomenon and could provide thick description in their reporting. The sample excluded (a). parents of special needs students (b). parents who worked for their child's school district (c) parents who reported bullying prior to 2005. Eleven parents were interviewed and recorded. All first interviews were performed face-to-face. The second follow up interview was performed two weeks later by phone. These semi-structured interviews were transcribed, then analyzed, using MAX qda software. Results: Four patterns in the data emerged. First, parents report that school officials responded in limited and/or ineffective ways that allow bullying to continue or even escalate. Second, parents, who early on in their child's school career, reported a concern to a school official found themselves feeling helpless in getting school officials to understand the seriousness of the bullying, especially for verbal and relational bullying. Third, parents report communication commitments are often discontinued by school officials after the report of bullying is made. Fourth, parents in this sample report Indiana's anti-bullying legislation to be inconsequential to their advocacy. For each pattern, exemplars are provided. A theme emerged from parents describing the need to be, “much more aggressive” when reporting and following through with school officials. Parents give suggestions on what they expect from the transaction of reporting and what that would look like from school officials. Conclusion and Implications: Currently, 38 states have anti-bullying laws. Future decision-making efforts for policy makers and school officials can assess the life-world experiences of parents who attempt to provide protection on their child's behalf. In order for the exchange to be successful, parents have to be taken seriously. Action toward investigation and follow through on parent reporting must be systemic and responsive. Therefore, future research must examine perceived obstacles school officials face when responding to reports of bullying.