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.”

4 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!

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