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.”

Join the Conversation


  1. 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.

    1. was this issue ever dealt with.. my Daughter is going through a very similar situation at a private Christian school we are new at. she has been held in a headlock choke and had hammers thrown at her in tech.. principal gave the bull 1 day in school suspention and says that this bully was only mucking around. I am a mess, my Daughter is afraid and I have to tell her to never be alone at school.. have you gone further? have you found help? please I am desperate.

      1. I just found this sight, but was appalled by your post. What happened to your child is assault. It is a crime. I would have called the police. You need to put the school on notice that the next time this happens to your child, you will call the police and have the perpetrator(s) of these crimes arrested at school.

        Some parents of unstable kids put their children in private school because public schools will no loonger take them or the parents know they won’t last long – because they are criminals!

        You pay a great deal of money for your child to receive a private school education. That alone should be enough to make administrators listen – IT ISN’T. Threats to contact the police and newspapers are the only things that will work with these people. I am lucky that my grandchildren attend a very good private Christian school. Doesn’t mean we haven’t had problems. But nothing like your child has experienced. Consider if your child had actually been hit in the head by one of those hammers or the bully had held the choke-hold a bit longer. That is serious and should be treated as such. Not brushed off as “kidding around”. That is just wrong. You have to stand up for your kids – NO ONE ELSE WILL.

      2. You should have filed a police report and took the child and his parents to court but assult and threat with a deadly weapon

  2. 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!

    1. 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.

      1. Good morning From NJ….I am a parent who has a child in your daughters school. My child has been bullied repeatedly but the school is also not doing anything. I have gone and filed a Complaint against them. I want everything on record because if I have to take it to Civil court I will do so. I think you should also file a complaint.

    2. 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

    3. I am going through a horrible situation right now with my son. Would you be willing to talk and give me some advice?

    4. Unfortunately, look how long it took the Catholic Church to admit and address the molestations that occurred between students and priests. Hopefully, there will not be a repeat of such a sluggish reaction to the destructive behavior of bullying in catholic schools. Kids who are bullied by other kids experience the same sense of isolation, hopelessness, shame and fear so many felt under the power of those sick adult priests. As we have seen, these behaviors have life lasting effects on abused children.

    5. Hello there, I have a friend that is going through this with her granddaughter for the past 3 years & nothing is being done. So she decided to not send her to that private school next year?!? Not far! The victim has to leave the school & not the bully?!? What are the steps if she has talked to the Administration & Principal & nothing was done? How can she file a complaint against the school.

      1. My son has been going thru this everyday!!! Just found a snap chat from a kid threatening to kill him. We tried to address the school after we asked them for help with bullying and they did nothing — when we showed up asking what they are doing they got withdraw papers.
        This is devastating!!

    6. Dear Ally:
      Did you ever start up an org on the private school bullying… I am now searching myself for relief for my son… any ideas or help would be appreciated.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.?

  5. 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.

    1. Help, this is happening at my Daughters Christian college too.. what do we do. I don’t know what to do

  6. 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.

  7. Has anyone ever found an attorney to work these cases on contingency? The cost for most of us makes it unlikely to sue. Schools know this and bank on that. They wipe us under the carpet hoping we will just go away. I have so much evidence, that I think our case is a slam dunk, but no attorney will touch it for less than $20,000 and some have quoted as high as $50,000. Even if you think you have a slam dunk, who has that kind of money lying around to gamble on – even if the odds are in your favor. I feel trapped. Maybe we should start legislation to regulate private schools. Protection for children with disabilities, too. If private schools are going to accept children with disabilities, then there should be some safeguards in place.

  8. i was an adult attending college and had an incident were a male professor went on a rant, whipped an eraser across the room at me when i asked a question. Then screamed at me to get out of his class. I reported him and he had to aplogize which he did not like one bit. I should have went forward and reported him to campus police He a very sick angry person.

  9. It is so disturbing that grown men or women working at religious institutions bully children. If you have tried to resolve the matter with the teacher, vice-principle, and principle and get no resolution. My advise would be to call the archdiocese and file a complaint with them.

  10. My daughter is being bullied at a Christian school as well. The anti-bullying laws in Texas only apply to public schools. I have had a meeting with the teachers and principals to no avail. The bullying is escalating. Today my daughter was slapped by her bully. The teacher was told and the bully had to run a few laps in PE. Is there any wonder why it escalates? These kids feel that they can do as they please because there aren’t any major consequences. I am sending my child to public school next year. It’s sad that feel she will be safer there than at a private school that I pay almost $1000 a month.

  11. Our daughter has been told to “slit your wrists”, ” go f… hang yourself”, “don’t step out of line, you stupid b…” And ” only faggots are in orchestra “. She is an accomplished violinist, has been at this school since three years old. She is honest and open with us, her parents. Entitled parents seem to back these disgusting kids. She dreads each day, yet we are discouraged, by the school, to contact the parents.

  12. My granddaughter attends a private school here in Ct. She reported to me of a young girl in her class that likes,to kick her, pull her hair hide her pencils case so that this young lady and another young lady laughs at her.. I spoke to her teacher, he did address the situation.. change sets, that last for a week niw that the young lady has most of the class attention. The young lady that use to play and talk to my granddaughter no longer wants to she now sets by herself, she is singled out.. the teacher told her she has to stay away from the young lady and sence all the girls except. My granddaughter are together he told my granddaughter not to go around them because you told your grandma and i don’t want your grandma to think your getting bullied and i dont want the young lady to accidentlly hit you..SMH

  13. I am about to drop off my kindergarten kid in school, when we are walking in the parking area towards the school building, my son told me that he was nauseuos and throw up some water. We entered the school office, instead of the sudent’s entrance and told the school secretary about it and asked persmission if we can use the bathroom. I washed my son’s mouth and gave him a sip of water. He said he was ok, so i then left him at school. When i was driving to my work place, got a message from the teacher and said that my son shouldn’t be in school because of the school policy, and to call the school secretary for rules explanation. I called the school and one of the staffs mentioned that if a kid is sick, he shouldn’t be in school. As i explained, i dropped off 2 kids in 2 separate directions. We leave our house as early as 6:40 am, dropping the 1st kid earlier than the time school door opens, then drived back to my kindegarten’s school rushing. He may then have a moton sickness. In this daily routine / scenario, my kindergarten is kind of nauseated when we reach his school. The school didn’t even asked or bother to investigate, why is that so. But they insisted that it is in their policy, not to bring kids if they vomit. So why send my kid and pay tuition fee if they will always end up sending my kid back home for spitting water because he was nauseaous. The first time, he was sent home because he threw up twice and i still don’t know the reason up to this time. Maybe he was over stimulated. The school is pre diagnosing that my son is sick and needs a medical certification for always being nauseated. The school staff even mentioned that the teacher is pregnant and may not be able to assists my child. Since first week of school, my son is already being singled out and labelled as bad by other kids. It is his first time in this school, 5 years old and adjusting. Is this already a kind of harassment or bullying? This really makes me feel bad.

  14. I am really trying not to cast judgement … but how can do many parents on here write that their child has been undergoing bullying for 1,2,3 years… pull them and enroll them elsewhere… ASAP…. we are. My son is in kindergarten and he has undergone weeks of bullying and I am pulling him out Monday. The administration refuses to do anything at a fairly pricey private school and that’s it. We’re gone. Please, if you can, REMOVE YOUR CHILD, if it becomes obvious the administration is full of hot air.

  15. My daughter goes to catholic school and was being bullied and victim of rumors. Administration refuses to do anything and state that this kind of things happened everyday. I pulled her out the same day.

  16. We pulled our daughter from a private Christian school in NH. We found the small group to be lead by specific queen bees and the administration did nothing to change it. They really couldn’t make change because the girl bullying was so insidious. The parents wore Christianity on their sleeves but seemed to protect and encourage their mean kids. She is at a public school now and is much happier. Pull your children from these Christian schools by 6th grade. They are not equipped to deal with middle school behavior. Public schools do a much better job of fostering community, embracing differences and calling out the bullies. Plus, there are more kids so your child can find other friends. I’m so disenchanted by the private schools. They are all smoke and mirrors (after your $, don’t be fooled).

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