If you’ve been notified by the school that your child is a bully, it’s important not to react angrily. “Fight down the impulse to say ‘I’ll show them; they’re so mean to my child,’ ” advises Stan Davis, author of Schools Where Everyone Belongs: Practical Strategies for Reducing Bullying. Instead, ask whether your child is doing things that she shouldn’t.

“The only time I would suggest disagreeing with the school is if you really believe your child is being punished for something he didn’t do,” says Davis, who publishes the website Stop Bullying Now. “But don’t do that based only on what your child says. I have parents who say ‘My child never lies.’ That’s not good enough. If your child was seen misbehaving by a staff member, I would take that as definitive. If your child’s misbehavior was reported independently by five kids who have no reason to hurt your kid, that’s pretty convincing.”

Given such evidence, it’s important to support the school. Talk to your child about his behavior, but don’t allow or encourage any kind of excuses. “It’s the parent’s job to say ‘You are responsible for the choices you made,’ ” Davis says.

That means telling your child that you support the school’s punishment and will not tolerate this behavior. However, unless the bullying involved serious harm or threats, Davis advises against punishing the child at home for misbehavior at school. “It can sour the parent-child relationship, and then it’s easy to side with the child against the school,” he says.

A school’s punishment might initially involve the loss of free time during recess and lunch or restriction from extracurricular activities, with more serious consequences if the behavior escalates. “If the punishment is way out of proportion to the behavior or is abusive, you have to challenge that,” says Davis. “But don’t say ‘The other person started it’ or ‘My child is sorry’ or ‘My child didn’t mean any harm,’ so there shouldn’t be a consequence. The harm has been done.”

What parents should demand from the school is assistance in arranging counseling. The purpose of therapy is to help your child take responsibility for his actions, to accept the ensuing punishment, to make restitution to the victims, and ultimately to develop empathy and sensitivity toward others.

“It’s incumbent on schools to identify those kids who [show] these abusive behaviors and make a concerted effort to direct some type of intervention toward them,” says Dr. Duane Thomas, an assistant professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania and a researcher for the Philadelphia Collaborative Violence Prevention Center. “It can include getting parents involved, increasing home-school communication with parents, and getting individual counseling that would get at the root of this proclivity. This should be a ‘family plus school’ type of intervention. Also, the school can help parents by supervising the activities of the student at school.”

Any child who bullies other children is in need of help. “I have traveled around the world and spoken to kids from Rwanda to New Zealand, and the problem is the same,” says Trevor Romain, author of the self-help book and video Bullies Are a Pain in the Brain. “Bullies are normally going through problems themselves, find a target, and take it out on the target.”