Bullying at School
School should provide a safe and nurturing place in which students can learn and form satisfying friendship networks.
Unfortunately this is not always the case and research shows that one in six students suffers from bullying behaviour in any one week in Australia. There appears to be no difference according to gender or the type of school. Exclusive private schools as well as public schools are all places where bullying may occur.
Geographical location doesn't seem to make much difference either. In addition to within the school grounds, bullying may also occur on the way home, in shopping centres, public transport and even through text messaging, e-mail, nuisance phone calls or inappropriate social media posts. Cyberbullying is the name given to repeated bullying using technology such as mobile phone or the internet for the purpose of deliberate intimidation, harassment or making threats.
Bullying behaviour may include, although not limited to:
- Teasing - "just for fun".
- Name calling - "put-downs".
- Aggressive behaviour such as pushing, pinching, punching, slapping.
- Damaging your property deliberately with the intention of upsetting you.
- Telling "stories" about you behind your back - malicious gossip.
- Making fun of your appearance, abilities and/or achievements.
- Making derogatory remarks about your ethnicity, religion, beliefs or anything else that is different from others.
- Forcing you to do something against your will.
- Making threats while demanding your money or other personal belongings.
What can you do about it?
Bullying behaviour firstly needs to be reported immediately to a teacher or school principal. The school and teachers have a legal responsibility to keep students safe and free from harm. There is a responsibility to both victim and alleged perpetrator for appropriate action to be taken. If the school authorities know that bullying is taking place and nothing is done to address it appropriately, they may be liable for negligence.
Source and more information: The Law Handbook - Your Practical Guide to the Law in Victoria.
"A pupil who suffers physical injuries due to the bullying of others may bring an action against the school or relevant education authority for compensation for his/her injuries."
"Victims of bullying may also bring an action against the perpetrator for battery and assault."
"Offensive and insulting behaviour such as spitting in another person’s face, pulling someone’s hair, planting a kiss on someone without that person’s consent, seizing something from another person’s hand, pouring water on someone, or pulling a chair from under a person so that they fall on the ground, may amount to bullying as well as battery."
"Assault and battery are civil wrongs as well as crimes under Australian law. Pupils above the age of 10 may face criminal proceedings in the Magistrates’ Court for assault. Upon conviction, the magistrate may direct that the perpetrator pay compensation to the victim or person aggrieved for injury or loss."
Source and for more information: The Law handbook - Your Practical Guide to the Law in Victoria.
There is no specific legislation or laws for bullying at either state or Commonwealth level that specifically prohibits bullying behaviour. However, the Equal Opportunity Act 1995 (Vic), Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth), Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth), Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) and Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) may each impose legal obligations on schools and teachers to deal with the problem of bullying.
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