A Bullying Prevention Policy should be developed collaboratively with staff, students, parents or care givers and the wider school community.
Bullying Prevention Policy
All schools should develop a Bullying Prevention Policy. The Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA) requires Victorian schools to have policies which provide students with a safe learning environment where the risk of harm is minimised and they feel physically and emotionally secure.
For government Schools, your Bullying Prevention Policy can form part of your Student Engagement Policy. For more information, see: Student Engagement and Inclusion Guidance.
When writing a Bullying Prevention Policy all schools should:
- acknowledge the need to develop a shared understanding across the whole school community that all forms of bullying are unacceptable
- provide clear definitions of what is and what is not bullying, including descriptions of the different subtypes of bullying
- provide clear advice on the roles and responsibilities of students, parents, caregivers and teachers for preventing and responding to bullying behaviour
- include strategies for developing and implementing whole school bullying prevention programs
- support the whole school community to recognise and respond appropriately to bullying, harassment and victimisation when they see it
- include clear procedures for students, teachers, other school staff and parents for reporting incidents of bullying to the school
- recognise the importance of consistently responding to all incidents of bullying that have been reported to the school and ensure that planned interventions are used to respond to these incidents
- ensure that support is provided to any student who has been affected by, engaged in or witnessed bullying behaviour
- provide regular updates, within the bounds of privacy legislation, to parents or caregivers about the management of incidents
- seek to identify patterns of bullying behaviour and respond effectively to these
- seek to identify 'hot spots' for bullying in the school environment and find ways to address these hot spots (e.g. greater adult supervision, changing the physical environment so bullying is less likely to occur)
- include procedures for reporting critical incidents involving assaults, threats, intimidation or harassment via the Student Critical Incident Unit
- include information about parent complaints to the Department. For more information, see: Parent Complaints
- include procedures and contact information for the Victoria Police Youth Resource Officer (YRO) where appropriate
- include contact information for appropriate support services such as Kids Helpline
- develop a communications plan to promote the Policy and ensure the whole school community understands the school's bullying prevention practices
- ensure the Policy is easily accessible within the school community and published on the school's website
- review the Policy with the school community annually
- in addition to the annual review, monitor bullying in the school community, and if necessary, review and modify the Policy accordingly.
Policy evaluation and review
Research* indicates that it is essential Bullying Prevention Policies are reviewed regularly and revised to ensure that the school's bullying prevention practices remain effective. It is important that schools:
- monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the Bullying Prevention Policy and make adjustments when needed
- review the Policy annually in line with the school's Annual Implementation Plan
- convey the view that the Policy is not written and then left to sit on a shelf until the next review. The Policy needs to be regularly revisited and change with the schools as it moves forward.
- report the effectiveness of the Policy and the schools' bullying prevention strategy to the school community annually. For a great way to do this, see: Data Capture Tool
For this to work, at least one staff member should be allocated to monitoring bullying incidents and prevention activities relative to the policy with an expectation that they regularly report back to the leadership team (or whatever group is most appropriate) on how things are tracking. If incidents are high, or other aspects of the policy do not seem to be implemented, then the Policy will require an interim review before the 12-month period is up. This staff member also needs to be responsible for ensuring the annual review occurs.
*Sheryl A. Hemphill et al, Longitudinal Predictors of Cyber and Traditional Bullying Perpetration in Australian Secondary School Students (published 2012)
Prevention and intervention
A school's Student Engagement Policy should include strategies to prevent, and intervene in, bullying and unacceptable behaviour.
All Victorian government schools must have a Student Engagement Policy that should include strategies to promote positive student behaviour, a safe and inclusive environment, prevent bullying and anti-social behaviour and encourage respect, compassion and cooperation.
This supports the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006, which outlines the basic human rights of all Victorians, including the right to recognition and equality, freedom from discrimination, cultural rights and right to protection of families and children. Government school councils are also required to consider human rights when developing policies.
For information to assist Government schools meet and maintain compliance with the school registration requirements, see: Registration Requirements for Schools