My child is bullied at school - what actions can I take?
While bullying isn’t exactly a new subject, there is never an excuse for it. Many children are bullied and some of them very seriously so.
Bullying can have a huge impact on children. Not only can it destroy their childhood and result in them living their lives in almost perpetual fear, it can have an insidious effect on them into their adult lives too. Many people who were bullied at school do finally put the experience behind them, but some don’t. There are many reasons why children are bullied at school, from sheer jealousy to discrimination. There is no justifiable excuse for bullying, however it needs to be stopped and addressed.
If any of your children are being bullied, they will need your support. An additional difficulty is that it is quite likely that they will try to disguise it; they are unlikely to come to you for help and they may resent your involvement, scared that it will only make the matter worse.
What is the legal position on school bullying?
While some forms of bullying are against the law, generally the law regards bullying as a problem that should be addressed by the school. It is the legal responsibility of the head teacher to implement an anti-bullying policy. All reports of bullying must be properly dealt with and actions should be taken to prevent it happening in the future, either on the school premises or in areas closely surrounding the school.
If you are unhappy with the way in which the school is dealing with bullying then you should follow this up with the school. By law, all state schools MUST have a policy on bullying, and you have every right to see it.
How do I deal with the school?
You need to contact the head teacher to talk about it. Arrange a date and time for a meeting. You should make a list of representative incidents of bullying along with times, locations, and people involved that you can use to support your case.
You should also write to the school giving as much detail as possible and request details on how they will follow it up. You should also request a copy of their anti-bullying policy,
Most schools will respond to such requests positively and will work with you to stop it happening, but if you are unhappy with how the school is handling it, don’t give up.
I am unhappy with the way the school is handling bullying. Can I sue the school or LEA?
While some schools do take bullying very seriously and are able to at least minimise its occurrence, other schools are less effective at stopping it. If the school that your child is attending is failing to adhere to its legal responsibilities, then theoretically they could have a case to answer, though generally it is advisable to pursue this only as a last resort.
It can be highly protracted and potentially damaging and you would need to prove that school failed in its duties to implement an anti-bullying policy; proving that your child was bullied simply isn’t enough. Sometimes a solicitor specialising in Educational Negligence may be best suited to see your case.
You say that some forms of bullying are against the law – what are they?
There are certain forms of bullying that are against the law and which the police will take very seriously. Generally the perpetuators are prosecuted. Some of these are:
- Theft of money or valuables
- Criminal damage to valuables
- Serious physical assault
- Sexual assault
- Malicious texts, emails and phone calls
- Online defamation and harassment
What should I do if any of these are occurring?
If your child has suffered any physical harm or sexual abuse then you should report it to the police without delay, but first of all try to get the child’s agreement to do so.
If your child is experiencing any of the other forms of illegal bullying then it would help if you are able to gather some evidence. This could be copies of texts, photographs of damage, along with details on locations and dates. Collect all the evidence you can and report it to the police.
Bullying is such a widespread issue in the UK that there are a lot of support groups set up to help. Some of the most recommended include:
I would like further advice on all this; the school has failed my child.
If you do decide that you want take the matter further and you are considering taking action against the school, then in the first instance you will need to speak with a solicitor to discuss whether there is any benefit in pursuing legal action. You can find your nearest QualitySolicitors with experience in collaborative law who can help make the process as quick and simple as possible.