What can I do about bullying?

Big kid bullying smaller kidThe problem of bullying has been treated with increased seriousness in recent years. If your child complains about being bullied or seems unusually reluctant to go to school, try to find out the extent of the problem by talking to them and their teacher. If you feel the problem has been inadequately handled in the classroom, there are two options.

First, you can take the matter further, which in government schools means contacting the principal if you have not already done so. In most non-government schools the principal is the end of the line, although contact with the governing board may be warranted in unusual cases. With awareness of the problem at an all-time high, you can expect most secondary schools to have established processes for addressing incidents of bullying, including cyberbullying. Current ‘anti-bullying’ wisdom also emphasises collaboration between home and school, so most teachers should be willing and well-equipped to work with you. In other cases, regional officers across the state can help by providing advice and mediation.

The second and more serious option is to consider another school. Aside from the risk that you may jump from the frying pan into the fire, changing schools can be hard going for your child. It may also make all the difference. There is no easy or sure way to manage this decision.

The federal National Safe Schools Framework aims to assist school communities in developing a comprehensive and proactive response to bullying in schools, also taking into account instances where bullying occurs outside the classroom and through digital technology such as mobile phones and social media.

In recent years bullying has also spread to the online world, with cyber bullying becoming a major issue. The key characteristics of social networking sites — accessibility, anonymity and public reach — make bullying easier and the consequences even more harmful and damaging for victims. To read about the six steps to protect your child from cyber bullying, click here.

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