​​​​​​How Australian schools respond

Schools are aware of the potential harmful effects of bullying, including online bullying (cyberbullying) on young people and take reports of bullying seriously.

While all Australian school communities are different and each student's circumstances are individual, there are some general actions schools take to address bullying.

The primary aim of the school's response is to restore a positive learning environment for all students.

Positive responses are based on the understanding that children and young people are in the process of learning how to be a member of the school and wider community.

Policy and procedures
Methods to restore relationships
School strategies
Privacy
What to avoid

Norm Fuller video

​​Norm Fuller (Principal) provides his perspective on how Australian schools respond to bullying and some suggestions on how parents and schools can work together.

Policy and procedures

Most schools have a policy about how they manage bullying. This might be part of a broader policy, for example a positive behaviour policy, or it may be a specific anti-bullying policy.

The school's policy should clearly explain what bullying is, so the whole school community understands the basis for the school's responses.

Schools need to respond to all types of inappropriate behaviour of students, not just bullying. When school communities have a shared understanding of bullying and how it differs from other types of conflict or aggression, they are able to respond appropriately.

The policy should include the expectations for behaviour and relationships, and detail the implications of not meeting these expectations.

Read more about school policy.

A well-developed school policy which includes clear procedures and articulates everyone's roles ensures schools are ready to respond effectively.

These procedures include the roles of everyone involved and the steps to be taken within the school's response. Each schooling system provides guidelines about how schools can best manage incidents. Check your school system's overarching policy and guidelines.

See School response flow chart for an example of the roles and steps suggested in a school's response. Your school's or your jurisdiction's recommended procedure may vary from this, but the example is provided to illustrate the key steps in positive responses.

Methods to restore relationships

Schools can select the method that is most appropriate for the students and the situation to repair relationships after bullying has happened.

These methods focus on repairing harm and restoring relationships, and can happen alongside broader proactive steps and strategies designed to prevent bullying from happening again.

Six methods are identified as frequently used in Australian schools:

Read more at Restoring relationships.

School strategies​

School staff understand that it can be distressing for a parent or carer to find out their child has been bullied. They will try to support you and your child as much as possible and include you in discussions about strategies that could be used.

Schools will consider your child's circumstances and will select the most appropriate strategies.

These strategies could include:

  • teaching and learning programs to develop students communication, social, assertiveness and coping skills
  • changes to the school environment to improve teacher supervision, such as removing visual barriers between teacher and students
  • increasing supervision of students at particular times or places
  • support from a guidance officer or school counsellor
  • changes to technology access at school
  • timetable or class changes that may be temporary or permanent to decrease the contact the students have with each other
  • class discussions of bullying including underlying issues and possible responses for students
  • promoting positive bystander behaviour
  • disciplinary action against students who bully others.

An action plan may be developed for your child and any other children involved. Strategies you could use at home may also be included in a plan.

Working together with the school is the best way to help your child resolve bullying issues.

Privacy

Schools must follow privacy laws and may not be able to tell you everything that has taken place, especially about any other children involved. These laws also serve to keep your child's information private.

What to avoid

There are many beliefs about bullying and ways of dealing with behaviour that have been shown, through research, to be far less effective than whole-school positive behaviour su​pport approaches. These include:

  • zero tolerance and 'get tough' suspensions and exclusions
  • rigid control of student behaviour
  • belief that students must receive punitive and negative consequences in all cases
  • increased security measures
  • unfair and inconsistent use of discipline
  • punishment without support.​​​

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