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education.vic.gov.au

School operations

Bullying Prevention and Response

Policy

The purpose of this policy is to support schools to create safe and respectful school climates and address all forms of bullying, including cyberbullying.

Summary

  • Schools must address bullying as part of their Student Engagement Policy (or have a separate standalone Bullying Prevention Policy) and implement strategies to prevent bullying as part of their duty of care.
  • An effective bullying policy clearly outlines the steps the schools will take when staff become aware of bullying behaviour, the strategies that may be utilised to address the behaviour, and the support the school will provide to all students involved.
  • The bullying policy must be developed in consultation with the school community, should be clearly communicated, and reviewed every 2 to 3 years.
  • A Bullying Prevention Policy Template is available on the School Policy Templates Portal (login required). Schools can modify the template to suit their local circumstances.

Details

Legal requirements

All staff working with students have a duty of care to take reasonable steps to prevent students from foreseeable harm. This includes taking reasonable steps to prevent foreseeable physical or psychological harm occurring as a result of bullying. Refer to the Department's Duty of Care Policy for more information.

The Education and Training Reform Regulations 2017 (Vic) require Victorian government school principals to develop a Student Engagement Policy which includes student behaviour. Principals must address bullying as part of the Student Engagement Policy, or have a standalone policy specifically addressing bullying.

Principals must develop the policy in consultation with the school community, and have regard to the rights and responsibilities of students, parents, and staff in developing the policy.

Template policy

A downloadable policy template for Victorian government schools is available on the School Policy Templates Portal (login required). Schools can modify the template to suit their local circumstances.

An effective bullying policy may include:

  • a clear definition of what is and what is not bullying
  • information on how the school builds a positive school culture and actively works to prevent bullying behaviours
  • provision of mediation, counselling and peer support for affected students, including students engaging in bullying behaviour
  • clear, staged processes for the implementation of intervention strategies, other consequences and follow-up monitoring
  • directions to staff for the maintenance of appropriate records

Communication of policy

Appropriate awareness of the policy is essential. The policy should be incorporated into school culture and discussed with the school community regularly. Communication may include:

  • incorporating the policy into staff induction processes and staff handbooks
  • circulating the policy regularly amongst staff
  • incorporating the policy into enrolment packs and/or student diaries
  • making the policy publicly available on the school website

Policy review

Review of a school’s bullying policy is recommended every 2 to 3 years.

Data collection ensures the school has adequate information to address the types of bullying behaviour that may be occurring, and modify the policy to ensure that it remains relevant and effective.

A data capture tool is available under the Resources tab. Additional methods of data collection may include:

  • student focus groups
  • regular student bullying surveys including the attitudes to school survey
  • regular staff surveys
  • assessment of reported incidents of bullying and the responses implemented

Definitions

Bullying
Bullying is an ongoing and deliberate misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that intends to cause physical, social and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power, or perceived power, over one or more persons who feel unable to stop it from happening.

Bullying can happen in person or online, via various digital platforms and devices and it can be obvious (overt) or hidden (covert). Bullying behaviour is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time (for example, through sharing of digital records).

Bullying of any form or for any reason can have immediate, medium and long-term effects on those involved, including bystanders. Single incidents and conflict or fights between equals, whether in person or online, are not defined as bullying.

Covert bullying
Covert bullying can be very difficult for someone outside of the interaction to identify. It can include hand gestures and threatening looks, whispering, excluding or turning your back on a person, restricting where a person can sit and who they can talk with. Social bullying (spreading rumours, manipulation of relationships, excluding, isolating) is often covert bullying.

Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying includes any form of bullying behaviour that occurs online or via a mobile device. It can be verbal or written, and can include threats of violence as well as images, videos and/or audio.

Physical bullying 
Physical bullying includes hitting, pushing, shoving or intimidating or otherwise physically hurting another person, damaging or stealing their belongings. It includes threats of violence.

Social bullying
This is sometimes called relational or emotional bullying, and includes deliberately excluding someone, spreading rumours, sharing information that will have a harmful effect on the other person and/or damaging a person’s social reputation or social acceptance.

Verbal and written bullying
Verbal and written bullying includes name-calling or insulting someone about an attribute, quality or personal characteristic.

Relevant legislation

Contacts

For policy advice and information about Bully Stoppers, contact: bully.stoppers@education.vic.gov.au

To raise a concern or report an incident, contact your nearest regional office: Regions

Department policy outlining the requirements of a school-level bullying prevention policy

Reviewed 04 May 2021

Policy last updated

15 June 2020

Scope

  • Schools

Contact

There are multiple contacts for this topic. Refer to the contacts heading at the bottom of the page.

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