Private-school bullying

By Nicholas Roddy
Staff writer

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Forty-eight states now have anti-bullying laws, and most require public school districts to have a policy on bullying. Bullying does not happen only at public schools, though.

There are more than 33,000 private schools in the United States. About 5.5 million students attend those schools. However, state laws do not cover private schools. It is up to private school administrations to create and enforce policies on bullying.

Parents now send their children to private schools to avoid bullying, according to At private schools, there are generally more teachers per student and that would lead to a higher probability of bullying being detected. Private schools also have more resources and programs to help students stay out of trouble. Studies by the National Center for Education Statistics show that bullying is less prevalent in private schools than in public schools.

Private schools are not immune to scandals involving bullying, though. In May 2011, a story came out about an eighth grader that was told to “man up” by her advisor when she was harassed at the Seattle Girls’ School. The girl was a frequent recipient of name-calling. The bullies even started having meetings in the bathroom to talk about her while she was in the bathroom stall. The bullying caused the girl to leave the school, and the girl’s parents sued the school.

The girl, who wanted to be known by her first name Olivia, said that each grade singled out a different girl every year to bully. In a Seattle Post Intelligencer article about the situation, Olivia’s mother said that the school tolerated the bullies because it did not want to jeopardize funding from their parents. The school was started in 2000 with a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant and tuition was about $15,000.

The Seattle Girls’ School is a member of the National Association of Independent Schools, an association aimed at being the national voice of independent schools. Patrick Bassett, President of the NAIS, said that they “are very serious about (bullying) because it is so damaging.”

Patrick Bassett, President of NAIS.

In a phone interview, he said “most of our schools have an anti-bullying curriculum just like they have an anti-racism curriculum.” As far as whose responsibility it is to stop bullying, Bassett said it is up to the students, teacher and parents. “Adults have to be conscious and intervene quickly and dramatically, but by the time a kid becomes a bully, there is already something else going on in his life.”

The reason independent schools are so effective in combating bullying, Bassett said, is because of the “contractual relationship the schools have with the kids and parents that says they have to be good citizens both inside and outside of school. If there is bullying outside of school, it is still under the jurisdiction of the school.”

11 Responses to Private-school bullying

  1. Angry Parent says:

    Some Private schools think they are immune to accountability. My daughter was the victim of years of exposure to explicit content harassment; and bullying which became assaultive in nature.
    In each instance, the schools Principal informed me of how troubled the girl and her family were and that she could not tell the mother how to parent. I am now learning from the girls parent that the schools Principal never addressed the issues with her. She did state that there was one incident right before their anti-bullying campaingn in which she was notified of any issues. The mother stated that the schools Principal trivialized the issue as a “Love-Hate-Relationship”. The mother stated that she owned a local printing company to which they provided services free of charge to the school.

  2. […] digital age, have instituted comprehensive anti-bullying policies as part of their mission.  In an interview with Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, NAIS President Patrick Bassett said, […]

  3. Ally Zins says:

    I would love to advocate for the establishment of anti-bullying laws in private schools. If you have any information on how I can accomplish this (who to contact, how to rally support,etc.), please let me know. I am 100% committed to this cause and have wanted to do something about this for a long time because of my experiences with Catholic school bullying in which the administration did nothing to stop it. To me, private school bullying seems worse because there are a fewer students and it is blatantly obvious who does not fit in. The article about this girl is so sad and I am determined to do something to fight against school bullying. I look forward to hearing from you soon!

    • From NJ says:

      I’m working on the same thing. My daughter got bully because of her curly puffy hair. The worse part is that the principal of the school also told her in front of all the students to tuck her hair in. I spoke to the principal and explain to him that she’s already been bully for this issue. Long story short I’m looking into this matter now.

    • Kimberly Hinkle says:

      Allie we are now experiencing the harassing and bullying with my daughter who is 12 and 7th grade in a private school in Maryland we have been to the school about 15 times met with the directors of or nothing is happening that harassment happens when a daily basis what else can we do to help our daughter

  4. Erin Stoddard says:

    I am in the same dilemma it would appear. Pay a substantial amount in tuition each month, aside from outrageous school taxes in NYS, and my son has been repeatedly harassed, bullied and even assaulted in his catholic school.
    It is the principal who has discretion on how it is handled. I was not even told on, several occasions that he was even touched or harassed.
    I feel that all private schools should fall under the state and federal guidelines.

  5. Paula says:

    What to do when the school defends the teacher and the teachers that bully their students and when a teacher at the school has a son that is the bully and the school protects the son of that teacher and never addresses the situation to protect their own? And the child my son being bullied is being called out for everything and yelled at yet other boys never are.?

  6. West Michigan Christian School Problems says:

    Unfortunately, this is happening in our Christian School in West Michigan as well. My children both have been the victims of bullying (name-calling, taunts, verbal abuse, and physical abuse). When asked, of course the school has a zero tolerance policy. However, when attempting to file a grievance, the school administrator says that the first step is a family-to-family meeting to discuss the matter in person. This is all well & fine except the bully and the bully’s family begins a “blame the victim” campaign and it ends in a stalemate every time. Unfortunately, this stalemate is what the school administrator wants. I’ve had meetings with him and each time he suggests that the school administration should not interfere but that it become the responsibility of the parents to work it out. Needless to say, the bully has figured out that the school’s zero tolerance policy is a joke and continues to provoke & abuse my children. Of course, it only makes matters worse that the bully’s parents are on the school board and wrote those policies themselves yet will blame the victim when it happens to be their child who is violating the policy. At best, its an embarrassment to be a parent sending my child to a “Christian” school and having to tell my kids that some children and their parents feel that the rules don’t apply to them and that the religious label they claim is meaningless. My children have already said, “If that’s how Christians act … is it worth being a Christian?” My only response is to live as Christ did, in altruism, and hope that more parents are verbal about the problem to voice a majority and get some changes.

  7. Stephanie says:

    NAIS should fire Mr Bennet. No one should run an organization that openly engages in victim blaming as a policy. His statement “….by the time a kid becomes a bully, there is something else going on in his life.” Really Mr Bennet. Responsible adults protect children regardless of public or independent funding. Kids first.

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