(08) 8821 2199

13-year-old Adelaide schoolgirl Libby Bell suffered bullying at school so deeply, she took her own life.

Now the public is crying out for justice.

But who is liable and what should I as a parent do should my child be bullied?

It is all too common to hear of bullying in our schools and little being done to address the behaviour, in some cases the victims can feel worse and more vulnerable once the bullying is reported to the school leaving the parents left in a horrific predicament as to what to do next.

It is important to remember that schools and teachers have a legal responsibility to deal with bullying behaviour of pupils and to provide support for the victim and the perpetrator. In fact, it has been well established in both case law and under the Civil Liability Act 1936 the duty owed to pupils by their school is extremely high.

So, what is a duty of care and how is negligence determined in bullying at school?

A duty of care is a legal obligation to avoid causing harm and arises where harm is reasonably foreseeable if care is not taken.

In order to establish whether a duty of care has been breached the court will look at the standard of care that is expected in the circumstances and as discussed above it has been established that the duty of care owed to a student by a school and its teachers is very high.

In establishing if that duty has been breached and if negligence has occurred you must satisfy the following four questions;

  • Did the school owe the child a duty of care “Yes”
  • Did the school breach their duty of care?
  • Did the child suffer an injury or other damage?
  • Was the injury or damage caused as a result of the school’s breach of the duty of care owed?

If you feel your child has been bullied and is suffering as a result of bullying we strongly suggest you consider taking the following steps to address the situation;

  • Report the matter to the school and your child’s teacher immediately, request the situation be monitored to ensure you child does not suffer any further harm.
  • Should the bullying continue request an appointment with the principle and year level co-ordinator to outline your concern and if at all possible attend the appointment with a witness to the bullying or any other evidence you may have (including social content) to set out the bullying has occurred. The school will then have an obligation to take action.
  • Should you feel disappointed with the schools conduct or handling of the situation you should then contact the Department for Education and Child Development.
  • If after exhausting all of the above you remain dissatisfied with the outcome or handling of the matter it may be time to contact your lawyer to discuss your legal rights.

Should you find yourself in need of advice regarding bullying or in fact any other matter involving your children we would be pleased to help and can be contacted on 8821 2199 or via our contact page.


Image: bullying by [-_-] JORGE via Flickr. CC BY 2.0

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