October 1, 2022

By Lawrence J. Altman, JD

The transition from second to third grade is often considered to be one of the most difficult years in your child’s education. Most educators are aware of this big leap, but many parents of third-graders may not know to prepare for the changes that lie ahead.

Steve Cohen

One important issue that can surprise parents of third graders is bullying.

Acts of bullying frequently starts to escalate at schools around age seven or eight. A key study, conducted by the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP) on behalf of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, found bullying can have many faces. In fact, they have identified nine distinct types of bullying: Verbal bullying, Physical bullying, being socially excluded or isolated, Being bullied through lies and false rumors, Having money or other things taken or damaged, Being threatened or forced to do things, Racial bullying, Sexual bullying, and Cyberbullying.

But, why does bullying happen when students are so young?

Dr. Steve M. Cohen, co-author of “Bully Navigator,” says: “Bullying begins at this age and stage because third grade is when many children start understanding the meaning of power. Third grade is a critically important transitional year for children. So many parents and grandparents of grade schoolers ask me what they can do to keep their kids safe. The answer is: you need to learn more about bullying. Specifically explore how your school is defining bullying.”

Researchers, educators, schools, parents, and children themselves often have conflicting definitions for bullying.

Dr. Cohen says, “When a child is harassed, many schools will default to a surprisingly vague definition of bullying that you may never have imagined. Your child’s school may even say that what you believe is bullying is not defined as bullying to them. That doesn’t mean that parents can’t and shouldn’t take action. Parents, grandparents, and caregivers must work with schools to advocate for their kids.”

Explore what your child’s right are under federal law.

Dr. Cohen co-created a parenting guide and an app to help families map out strategies to keep their children safe from bullying and sexual violence at school.

Dr. Cohen says, “In sensitive scholastic situations, parents may not immediately understand the best way to proactively stand up for children. The school is obligated by federal funding to educate children. Every child has a right to feel safe. As a parent, you must make sure that your child is safe. Never stop asking: ‘What can we do to make sure that my child feels safe at school?’ Your child has a right to go to a school where they can learn and not have to worry about bullying. Your child’s rights are protected by federal law.”