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What does the law say about bullying?

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Whilst there is no legal definition of bullying there is still some Law and guidance which schools and other settings must have regard to. ABA has created a guide about bullying and the Law including about cyberbullying which you can find in the attachments section of this page. We also have a CPD online training module on bullying and the Law which is free to access. The information below applies to schools in England.

Some key points:

  • The Department for Education (DfE) has produced guidance for all schools, including academies and free schools, which outlines its duties towards preventing and tackling bullying in schools:  
  • The Education Act 2002 Section 175 placed a legal duty on maintained schools and Local Authorities to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.
  • Some incidents of bullying may also be a child protection issue. A bullying incident should be addressed as a child protection issue under the Children Act 1989 when there is ‘reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm. These concerns must be reported to the member of staff in school responsible for child protection and then reported to the local authority’s children’s social services.
  • Section 89 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 states that maintained schools must have measures to encourage good behaviour and prevent all forms of bullying amongst pupils. Some schools choose to include this information in an anti-bullying policy, whilst others include it in their behaviour policy. These measures must be communicated to all pupils, school staff and parents. The head teacher must follow through and adopt the policy and all students, parents and teachers should be notified of it once it has been decided.  
  • The Independent School Standards (England)(Amendment) Regulations 2012 state that the proprietor of an academy or other independent school is required to ensure that an effective anti-bullying strategy and health & safety strategy is drawn up and implemented. 
  • Under the Public Sector Equality Duty of the Equality Act 2010, schools and childcare providers must take steps to prevent and respond to discriminatory language. 
  • Schools have the powers to intervene in bullying incidents outside of the school ground including on home-to-school transport, in the community and online.
  • Most bullying incidents are not crimes. But some types of bullying are illegal and should be reported to the police. This includes bullying that involves violence or assault; theft; harassment and intimidation over a period of time including calling someone names or threatening them, making abusive phone calls, and sending abusive emails or text messages (one incident is not normally enough to get a conviction); and anything involving hate crimes.
  • Some cyberbullying activities could be criminal offences under a range of different laws, including the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. There have been some instances of such prosecutions in the UK.

28 May 2017

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