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Bullying At School
There is no legal definition of bullying, but the physical or verbal insults or assaults that define it in practice do nevertheless cause great distress for the child who is on the receiving end. Bullying can have a long lasting effect on children that can carry through into adulthood. In many cases a child won’t share the fact that they are being bullied, and will refrain from asking for help from their parents for fear of making the situation worse.
It is important therefore for parents to be aware of the signs that their child is potentially suffering bullying. These could include anxiety, irritability, disturbed sleep, lack of enthusiasm to attend school and unexplained damage to possessions or clothing.
How can schools stop bullying?
All state schools must have anti-bullying policies and procedures in place, and it is down to the individual school to set and monitor these, and make sure they are appropriately followed. As a parent you should have access to this information, as must the staff at the school. There is also a duty of care on the part of the school to all the children for whom they have responsibility.
Additionally, schools are well advised to attempt to establish a positive culture of respect and regularly discuss the subject of anti-bullying strategies in staff meetings, at parent evenings and assemblies and ensure staff are trained in policies and procedures so that they are confident to intervene in any issues that arise.
Bullying should always be reported to the school as soon as it arises so that it can be intercepted and dealt with at the earliest opportunity, even if it is occurring outside of the school premises. Schools are expected to take a proactive approach, for example by keeping a detailed log, speaking with the children involved or taking appropriate disciplinary measures.
Schools in England and Wales are also required to follow anti-discrimination law, which means staff must take steps to prevent victimisation, harassment and discrimination.
What can I do if a school is ignoring bullying?
Parents will often find themselves in the difficult position of trying to resolve instances of bullying at school themselves. If a school appears to be ignoring bullying, there are various potential dangers for parents to be mindful of if they allow their child to continue to attend school.
It is fairly common for parents to feel that their child’s school is not taking sufficient action to stop bullying. In notifying the school, ensure you clearly explain what you understand the situation to be. Communication is key and you should be as specific as possible so that the school is in full possession of the facts. Make sure you request a copy of the school’s anti-bullying policy, and request a plan of action so that you are clear about what the school intends to do.
If the plan of action does not have the desired effect then you can escalate the complaint, either to the Head Teacher, the Board of Governors, or the Local Authority.
Sometimes bullying can be so severe that it can actually constitute a criminal offence. When there is a threat of violence or actual violence; assault; theft; criminal damage or repeated harassment or intimidation, for example abusive text messages, emails, social media posts (cyberbullying), phone calls or direct name calling, or hate crimes, then not only should it be reported to the school but also the police.
How can I stop my child from being bullied?
Whilst it can be tempting to keep your child home from school to prevent bullying, if this is done without prior agreement with the school then you may as a parent face Local Authority prosecution proceedings for failing to ensure your child is receiving an adequate full time education.
If you are seriously concerned that sending your child to school could put them in considerable danger, then you can make a request to the Local Authority to educate them at home, which you are legally entitled to do in certain conditions such as ill health, although medical evidence would need to be provided. If you choose to home educate your child, you will need to provide evidence that you are able to deliver the required full time education that corresponds with their ability and age, and meet any special educational needs that are necessary. Often the Local Authority will ask to see details of the learning plan so they can approve its suitability for your child.
What are the different types of bullying?
Bullying can be defined as any repeated behaviour that is intended to hurt someone emotionally or physically. It can take the form of teasing, physical assault, damage to possessions, theft, name calling, cyberbullying or any type of threatening behaviour.
Can I sue the school if they won’t stop my child from being bullied?
From a legal point of view, schools are required to do all they possibly can to protect children from any type of bullying. If they fail to do so then they may be judged to be legally responsible if the bullying has caused a child to suffer serious harm which it could have expected to happen.
In cases such as these, in theory it could be possible to sue the school. However, education law solicitors will usually advise that this should be a last resort due to the fact that cases like these can become complex and stressful for both parents and children. You would be required to prove that the school failed to meet its duty of following an anti-bullying policy, not just that your child was bullied. It is worth discussing the situation with a specialist lawyer to ascertain the best way forward.
How can a solicitor help to stop my child from being bullied?
If you do feel that you are in a position to prove the school’s negligence and you wish to take action against it or the Local Authority, a solicitor will be able to advise you as to whether it will be a beneficial exercise for you. The solicitor will focus on achieving the outcome that they consider to be in the best long term interests of your family, and will take an approach that is as straightforward as possible so as to reach a conclusion swiftly.
At HCB Solicitors we have been advising parents on bullying at school issues for several years and have become renowned nationwide for our expertise and ability to achieve the right results for families that are facing its potentially detrimental effects. You can speak to our sympathetic specialists in complete confidence, so why not give us a call today to discuss how we might be able to alleviate your concerns?
Where can I get support if my child is being bullied?
The following support groups and charities may be able to assist if your child is facing bullying at school:
The Anti-Bullying Alliance