Bullying

Purpose of this policy

To support schools to create safe and respectful school environments and prevent bullying, cyberbullying and other unacceptable behaviours.

Policy

Schools must include a statement about bullying and cyberbullying behaviours in the Rights and Responsibilities section of their Student Engagement Policy.

Note: A Student Engagement Policy should include a positive statement about the school’s values and philosophy, and the related programs and strategies being implemented by the school to promote student engagement, high attendance and positive behaviours see: Department resources

Policy template for schools

A downloadable policy template for Victorian government schools is available on the Department's intranet at: Bullying Prevention Schools can modify the template to suit their local circumstances.

Definition

The national definition of bullying for Australian schools says:

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.

This table describes the categories of bullying.

Category Includes
Direct physical bullying
  • hitting, kicking, tripping, pinching and pushing or damaging property
Direct verbal bullying
  • name calling, insults, teasing, intimidation, homophobic or racist remarks, or verbal abuse.
Indirect bullying
  • action designed to harm someone’s social reputation and/or cause humiliation. Indirect bullying includes:
    • lying and spreading rumours
    • playing nasty jokes to embarrass and humiliate
    • mimicking
    • encouraging others to socially exclude someone
    • damaging someone’s social reputation or social acceptance
Cyberbullying
  • direct verbal or indirect bullying behaviours using digital technologies. This includes harassment via a mobile phone, setting up a defamatory personal website or deliberately excluding someone from social networking spaces.

Note: Many distressing behaviours are not examples of bullying even though they are unpleasant and often require teacher intervention and management.

Mutual conflict: involves an argument or disagreement between people but not an imbalance of power. Both parties are upset and usually both want a resolution. Unresolved mutual conflict can develop into bullying if one of the parties targets the other repeatedly in retaliation.

Social rejection or dislike: is not bullying unless it involves deliberate and repeated attempts to cause distress, exclude or create dislike by others.

Single-episode acts: of nastiness or physical aggression are not the same as bullying. If someone is verbally abused or pushed on one occasion they are not being bullied. Nastiness or physical aggression that is directed towards many different people is not the same as bullying. However, this does not mean that single episodes of nastiness or physical aggression should be ignored or condoned as these are unacceptable behaviours.

Approaches

Schools should:

  • promote and support safe and respectful learning environments where bullying is not tolerated
  • put in place whole-school strategies and initiatives as outlined in the Department’s anti-bullying policy
  • develop a Student Engagement Policy that includes processes and strategies to prevent and respond to incidents of bullying and other forms of unacceptable behaviour.
  • involve students, staff and parents in updating the Student Engagement Policy.
  • work in partnership with parents to reduce and manage bullying.
  • take a whole-school approach focusing on safety and wellbeing.

Related policies

Related legislation

  • Education and Training Reform Act 2006

Department resources

For more information see:

Other resources

  • Bullying. NoWay! – the joint Australian Education Authorities website
  • National Safe Schools Framework providing a set of nationally agreed principles for safe and supportive school environments and includes appropriate responses that schools can use to address the issues of bullying, harassment, violence, and child abuse and neglect.