Teacher journal archive (2008-2011)

Article Title

Education and the law : negligence and bullying


What was once a teacher's or school's ethical responsibility to address bullying and student welfare is now a legal responsibility. The law of negligence is quickly evolving to define exactly what the responsibilities of schools and their teachers are in these circumstances. The authors define the concepts of bullying, cyberbullying and negligence. While bullying away from the physical school environment is not a new concept, cyberbullying does enable a new and more powerful form of bullying, since the bully is able to remain anonymous. The question of whether a teacher can be considered negligent in bullying situations is discussed, using legal cases and precedents. The authors also provide advice to reduce the risk of liability for negligence. These include: training of staff how to identify, address and positively manage bullying; familiarising staff with cyberspace and cyberbullying; amending anti-bullying programs, policies and action plans to include cyberbullying, and implementing them; undertaking reasonable prevention activities; undertaking reasonable disciplinary measures for the bully; warning parents; and educating parents on how to deal with bullying and bullied children. The boundary that determines where and when a school's and teacher's duty of care to students starts and finishes is blurred. A good rule of thumb is: if you're aware of it, don't ignore it. [Author abstract, ed]

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