School response process

Principals should ensure that all staff are aware of the procedures to follow when responding to incidents of student bullying, and that these are regularly reviewed and updated if necessary.

Research shows that specific training for staff and the support of the school principal for teachers in dealing with bullying incidents improves staff capacity and readiness to respond well.

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

Effective schools use the response to bullying as a learning opportunity for everyone involved. The school's intervention is based on the understanding that children and young people are learning how to be a member of the school and wider community.

A second aim of the school's response is to avoid escalation of issues or causing more harm.

Students who have experienced ineffective school responses to bullying may be less likely to report future incidents.

In the first instance schools should consult their jurisdiction's policy and guidelines for schools for how to respond to reports of bullying.

The steps below provide a general guide for those who may not have jurisdictional guidelines. They are provided to illustrate the key steps in positive responses. Your jurisdiction's recommended procedure may vary from below due to the policy and legal environment.

Student reports bullying (including online bullying)

The steps to follow when a student reports bullying (including online bullying) are:

  1. Listen carefully and calmly, and document what the student tells you. (Clarify if there are immediate safety risks and let the student know how you will address these).
  2. Collect additional information.
  3. Discuss a plan of action with the students.
  4. Inform the student what you intend to do.
  5. Provide suggestions on what to do if the bullying occurs again.
  6. Set a date for follow up review/s.
  7. Record the incident/student contact in the school's student data management system.
  8. Notify appropriate school personnel.
  9. Contact the parent/guardian informing them of the incident and your course of action.
  10. Make sure to follow up with students over the next several weeks and months.

Download a flow chart (PDF, 52KB) of these steps with additional information. Accessible version (RTF, 73KB)

Parent reports student bullying to the school

A similar series of steps applies if a parent contacts the school to report bullying. Ensure printed information (particularly the relevant policy) is available at any meetings with parents if appropriate.

The steps to follow are:

  1. If they have not already done so, ask the parents/carers to talk with the year/class teacher in the first instance.
  2. If they are still concerned after speaking with the year/class teacher, invite them to make an appointment with you and any relevant teaching staff.
  3. At the meeting provide a calming, supportive response and appreciate that some parents may express anger and distress about their child's experience.
  4. Listen carefully and document the account.
  5. Refer to your school policy to discuss the definition of bullying, expectations of students and staff, responsibilities and implications.
  6. Inform the parents what you intend to do in regards to their concerns.
  7. Let the parent/guardian know the name and contact details of the responsible officer for further contact.
  8. Provide suggestions and information about what parents/carers can do to support their child in the short term.
  9. Set a date for a follow up review and conclude the meeting.
  10. Record the incident/student contact in school's student data management system.
  11. Collect additional information from students and other personnel as appropriate.
  12. Notify appropriate school personnel.
  13. After you have developed a full action plan based on the additional information gathered, conduct the follow up review meeting with parents/caregivers.​
  14. Agree on a contact person for parents/caregivers while the action plan is implemented.
  15. Follow up with parents/caregivers and students at a designated time in the following weeks or months.