Bullying at school

Bullying is never ok. At school you have the right to feel safe and protected. If you are being bullied and you want to speak to someone about what is going on, you can talk to a trusted adult, like a parent or school counsellor or you can call the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. The Kids Helpline provides free phone counselling 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (sometimes there can be a delay in getting through, so we encourage you to keep trying). You can also chat to them online here 

For free and confidential legal advice about this topic, please contact us here. 

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What is bullying?

Bullying is repeated behaviour that is intended to be harmful or hurtful that targets a certain person or group of people. 

Bullying can be: 

  • verbal – for example, threats, teasing, name-calling or put-downs; 
  • physical – for example, hitting, punching, spitting or scratching;  
  • social – for example, excluding, making inappropriate gestures, alienating or spreading rumours; or 
  • online – like offensive text messages or emails, or messages sent on Facebook or in a chat room (cyberbullying). 

Where can it happen?

Bullying can happen anywhere and to anyone. It can happen at home, school, and at work.  It can be obvious or hidden. It can even happen in places away from school and outside of school hours, like online on social media.

Is bullying illegal?

Bullying can be illegal. It is a crime for someone to: 

  • be physically violent towards you or threaten to harm you
  • stalk you (stalking includes following, watching or contacting you repeatedly in a way that scares you);
  • damage your property or threaten to damage your property; or 
  • steal your things.

It can also be against the law for someone to harass, insult or treat you unfairly because of your: 

  • race; 
  • disability; 
  • religion; 
  • gender identity; or 
  • sexual orientation.

 You can read more about discrimination here. 

It can be a crime to do any of the above things over the internet or using a device, such as a mobile phone.10 This is called cyberbullying. You can read more about cyberbullying here. 

What does your school have to do about bullying?

 All schools have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of their staff and students. This includes taking steps to support students who are being bullied at school. Your school should teach students about bullying and make sure your school is a place where bullying is not accepted.  

Most schools will have an anti-bullying plan or policy in place. For state schools, you might find this plan or policy in the Student Code of Conduct. Otherwise, you can ask your school about their anti-bullying policy or plan and see what it says your school will do to stop bullying from happening. 

I’m being bullied at school. What can I do about it?

Bullying is not ok and you don’t have to put up with it. You have the right to feel safe. You may be able to solve the problem by just ignoring the bully. But if you feel threatened, or if the bullying doesn’t stop, there are other options.   

1. Tell someone

Telling someone that you are being bullied is important. It can make you feel better because you don’t have to deal with the problem on your own. Telling somebody, even just your friends, can make you feel supported. It shares the problem, and allows you to get advice and help to stop the bullying. 

You could: 

  • Tell your friends – they can help you tell a teacher or your parents or just make you feel better. 
  • Tell your parents – tell them the who, what, when and where of what’s been happening. 
  • Tell your school – we explain more about how to do this below. 
  • Tell your teachers or the principal – tell them the who, what, when and where of what has been happening. 
  • Call the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 if you can’t talk to someone face-to-face. They provide free phone counselling 24 hours a day/7 days a week. Sometimes there can be a delay in getting through, so we encourage you to keep trying. It’s free from all mobile phones and it doesn’t matter which provider you are with.   
  • Kids Helpline online chat: You can also chat to them online at  https://kidshelpline.com.au/get-help/webchat-counselling 

2. Make a complaint to your school

Your school has a legal duty to do something if bullying is happening at your school and is causing harm to any student. If telling someone at school is not enough to stop the bullying, you can make a complaint to the school by meeting with the principal or writing a letter to the school.  

You can ask your parents or someone you trust to go with you if you meet with the principal, especially if you feel scared or worried about it. Your school should work with you to try and figure out a plan to stop the bullying. 

3. Make a complaint to the Department for Education or other governing body

If you’ve complained to your school but you are not happy with their response, you can make a complaint to the governing body for your school. If you go to a public school, this will be the Department of Education. You can contact the Department of Education here 

If you go to a private or independent school, speak to your school or have a look at their policies to find out how you can make a complaint about the school. 

When making a complaint, it is a good idea to give detailed information about what happened at school and explain why you think your school has failed to help stop the bullying. It is also a good idea to think about what you want the school to do. Your school’s anti-bullying policy can be a useful place for you to start when looking at what your school should do to stop bullying.  

If you have more questions about how to make a complaint, you can contact us for free and confidential help 24/7 here. 

4. Make a report to the police

If someone has been violent or threatening towards you or has touched you without your consent, you can report this to the police. If you ever feel unsafe, you should call 000. 

5. Apply to Court for a Peace and Good Behaviour Order  

Courts can make a ‘Peace and Good Behaviour Order’ to protect you from someone who is threatening to be physically violent to you or who is threatening to destroy or damage your property. If the court makes a ‘Peace and Good Behaviour Order’, it can order someone not to contact you (including in person, by phone or on the internet).  

It is important to know that the court can sometimes be reluctant to make these kinds of orders when the people involved go to the same school. This is only an option in very serious cases of bullying, where other things haven’t helped. 

You can learn more about peace and good behaviour orders on our website here. 

6. Taking legal action 

In some cases you or your parent or guardian can take legal action against a bully or your school. This is because the school has a duty of care to ensure the safety of all its students. In simple terms, this means that the school must take reasonable steps to reduce the risk of certain reasonably foreseeable harm from bullying. But before your parent or guardian thinks about taking legal action, it is a good idea to try and solve the situation with the school first. This option may be appropriate if you have suffered serious physical or psychological harm because of the bullying. 

If you do want to take legal action, you should get legal advice before you do. You can contact us for free and confidential legal advice 24/7  here 

Support

Experiencing or witnessing bullying can be really upsetting. While it is the right thing to do, reporting bullying may make you feel anxious and stressed. During this time, it is important to reach out for support. You can contact the following counselling services for 24/7 support. 

  • Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800  
  • Lifeline: 13 11 14 
  • Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636 

If you have a question about bullying that we haven’t answered above, you can contact us here. 

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