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Bullying Policy

Introduction

Bullying is a form of abuse that can seriously affect the health, wellbeing and educational outcomes of children. This includes those being bullied, those bullying others, families and the whole school community. The impact of bullying can be tracked to adulthood for many individuals.

Bullying is now more pervasive with new technologies such as text messaging, email and the internet. These covert psychological methods also allow the person bullying to be even further removed from the person they are bullying and the direct consequences of their actions.

National Safe Schools Framework

The National Safe Schools Framework (NSSF) is a federal government initiative designed to assist schools monitor their current strategies in the areas of bullying, harassment, violence, child abuse and neglect.

The aims of the NSSF are to assist all school communities in building safe and supportive schools where bullying, harassment and violence are minimised, and where students receive support on issues related to child abuse and neglect.

The vision statement of the NSSF is that ‘all Australian schools are safe and supportive environments’. This vision is supported by eleven guiding principles and six key elements of good practice. These key elements apply to bullying and the implementation of successful practices in schools.

Cyber Bullying:

Cyber bullying involves the use of information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behaviour by an individual or group, that is intended to harm others. Bullies deliberately set out to intimidate, exclude, threaten and/or hurt others repeatedly. Bullying is a clear form of harassment. People who use the internet, email, intranets, phones or similar technologies to bully others are cyber bullies and are breaking the law.

The six key elements of good practice are:
  1. School values, ethos, culture, structure and student welfare 
  2. Establishment of agreed policies, programmes and procedures 
  3. Provision of education and training to school staff, students and parents 
  4. Managing incidents of abuse and victimisation 
  5. Providing support for students 
  6. Working closely with parents
Thornlie Christian College is required to report annually on its policies, programs and procedures in line with the six key elements listed above.

Duty of Care

All College staff owe a duty of care to their students. This duty arises from the nature of the relationship that exists whenever and wherever the student is in their care. This duty does not require the prevention of all injuries – the standard of care required is that reasonable care is taken to prevent reasonably foreseeable injuries.

This notion of reasonable care extends to ensuring that the College provides a safe, non-violent environment for all students by addressing bullying.

Rationale

The ministry of an effective Christian school is dependent on the existence of positive relationships among, and between members of the school community at all levels. The importance of unity cannot be overstated as we have a responsibility before our students to model Christian behaviour in every area, particularly our relationships. In fact, we are commanded to live in relationship; first to love God and then to love one another. Our relationships with one another are a reflection of our corporate spirituality. When issues arise which jeopardize our unity, such as bullying, we should endeavour to resolve such issues in ways that maintain relationship and bring glory to God.

Practice

The College’s bullying policy is a “Whole-of-College approach” that seeks to create an environment in which students feel safe and free from hurt and intimidation; where through teaching and practice, positive relationships are reinforced; and shared strategies are used to resolve conflict when it arises.

The College makes a commitment to all families that all issues of Bullying that are brought to our attention, will be investigated.

In recognition of the fact that most bullying occurs in the Primary and Middle School years, a module on all aspects of Bullying is taught as a part of the Health Education curriculum in both areas of the College.

It is important that all members of the community understand the nature of bullying and seek to deal with both bullies and victims to bring about genuine reconciliation. To this end staff, parents and students will be provided with training and information aimed at raising the community’s awareness of bullying and outlining the strategies employed by the College in addressing instances of bullying when they occur.

Mentor groups and Form groups in the Secondary School, Class groups in the Primary School and the Pastoral Care Team provide a support network for the effective implementation of the policy. Mentor groups serve as a forum in which issues relating to bullying and other pastoral care concerns can be openly and safely discussed. The purpose of these groups is to empower the student community to take an active role in establishing and maintaining a positive relational community. The Pastoral Care Team consists of the following ‘layers of relationship:’

Layer 1: Form and Class Teachers
Layer 2: Any other Teacher available. (Duty Teacher etc.)
Layer 3: College Chaplain and College Psychologist
Layer 4: Assistant Principals, Deputy Principal and Principal

Students who have bullying–related issues are encouraged to approach any staff member with in any layer with whom they have a trust-relationship.

Response strategy for Bullying

In the first instance when a report of bullying is received the person who has been trusted with the information should seek the victim’s permission to pursue the matter and involve the Form Teacher, Assistant Principal or Chaplain. Parents will be informed of the issue when it is deemed necessary to do so.

The student being bullied should be offered reassurance and protection from ANY further harassment or bullying.
  • The objective of intervention is to stop the bullying immediately and work with both parties towards achieving a genuine reconciliation. 
  • The incident will be referred to the Assistant Principal or Deputy Principal who will interview both parties to gain a full picture of what has been happening. 
  • Programmes such as “Shared Concerns’ and “Restorative Practices” may be utilised depending on the particular circumstances of the issue under investigation. 
  • The bully may be required to work through a re-training module with their parents in an effort to cause them to reflect on and modify their attitudes and behaviour. 
  • The bully may be put on Step 4 of the Behaviour Management Policy and advised that any further harassment of any kind toward the victim may result in expulsion from the College. 
  • Serious physical bullying may result in the matter being referred to the police. 
Ultimately the College will not tolerate any further escalation or continuation of a bullying incident that has been reported and followed up. Students who fail to support the College in its efforts may forfeit their enrolment at the College.

Response strategy for Cyber Bullying

Aims of Cyber bullying intervention:

  • To reinforce within the school community what cyber bullying is and the fact that it is unacceptable. 
  • Everyone within the school community to be alert to signs and evidence of cyber bullying and to have a responsibility to report it to staff whether as observer or victim. 
  • To ensure that all reported incidents of cyber bullying are investigated appropriately and that support is given to both victims and perpetrators.
  • To seek parental and peer-group support and co-operation at all times. 

Implementation:

  • Parents, teachers, students and the community will be aware of the school’s position on cyber bullying. Teachers will be regularly reminded of their duty of care regarding protection of students from all forms of bullying. 
  • The school will adopt a four-phase approach to cyber bullying. 

Primary Prevention:

  • Professional development for staff relating to all forms of bullying including cyber bullying, harassment and proven counter measures. 
  • Educate the school community about the seriousness of cyber bullying, its impact on those being bullied and how this behaviour is unacceptable 
  • Community awareness and input relating to bullying (including cyber-bullying), its characteristics and the school’s programs and response. 
  • Provide programs that promote resilience, life and social skills, assertiveness, conflict resolution and problem solving. 
  • An anonymous reporting site will be advertised to students, staff and parents where cases of cyber-bullying can be reported without fear of victimisation or identification. 
  • Each classroom teacher to clarify with students at the start of each year the school policy on bullying, including cyber-bullying. 
  • All students to be provided with individual and confidential computer and network log- ins and passwords. Processes to be put in place to ensure tracking of student activity on the school’s computer equipment and network. Firewalls to be installed to eliminate outside traffic into the school’s network and intranet. 
  • The use of Zimbra closed intranet technology to allow for the monitoring of all student internet activity within the College. 
  • The use of mobile phones by students will be limited with consequences to be implemented for any students who use mobile phones inappropriately. 
  • The curriculum to include anti-bulling messages and strategies eg: ‘The Friendly Schools’ and ‘No Blame Approach to Bullying’ programs. 
  • A vigilant and accountable yard duty roster for teachers will be put in place. 

Early Intervention:

  • Encourage children and staff to report bullying incidents involving themselves or others. 
  • Staff on a regular basis reminding students and staff to report incidents of bullying.
  • Regular monitoring of student traffic on school’s computer networks to identify potential problems. 
  • Parents encouraged to contact Collegel if they become aware of a problem. 
  • Public recognition and reward for positive behaviour and resolution of problems. 

Intervention:

  • Once identified each bully, victim and witnesses will be spoken with, and all incidents or allegations of bullying will be fully investigated and documented. 
  • Parents to be contacted. 
  • Students and staff identified by others as bullies will be informed of allegations. 
  • Both bullies and victims will be offered counselling and support. 
  • Removal of cyber-bullies from access to the school’s network and computers for a period of time. 
  • If student bullying persists parents will be contacted and consequences implemented consistent with the College’s Bullying & Behaviour Management Policies. 

Post Violation:

  • Consequences for students will be individually based and may involve:- 
    • exclusion from class. 
    • exclusion from yard. 
    • withdrawal of privileges. 
    • ongoing counselling from appropriate agency for both victim and bully. 
    • suspension. 
    • expulsion. 
  • Reinforcement of positive behaviours.
  • Support Structures. 
  • Ongoing monitoring of identified bullies. 
  • Rewards for positive behaviour.

APPENDIX 1:

Definitions of Bullying

“Bullying is a behaviour which can be defined as the repeated attack, physical, psychological, social or verbal, which is formally or situationally defined, on those who are powerless to resist, with the intention of causing distress for their own gain or gratification.” Besag (1989)

Bullying is:
  • Repeated and unjustifiable behaviour 
  • Intended to cause fear, distress and/or harm 
  • Physical, verbal, psychological, relational 
  • By a more powerful individual or group 
  • Against a less powerful individual unable to effectively resist 
Child Health Promotion Research Centre – ECU (2005)

Bullying takes many forms, but can be best categorised under the following headings:

Emotional bullying includes:

  • being excluded from group conversations and activities 
  • making up or spreading rumours to facilitate dislike for someone 
  • being ignored repeatedly 
  • purposeful misleading or being lied to 
  • making stories up to get others into trouble 

Physical bullying:

  • hitting, kicking, pinching, pushing, bumping, shoving, scratching, slapping, biting, punching or tripping someone repeatedly 
  • unwanted physical or sexual touching 
  • throwing objects with the intent to injure or annoy 

Threatening/Psychological bullying:

  • stalking, threats or implied threats 
  • dirty looks 
  • manipulation – pressuring others to do things they don’t want to do 
  • intimidation – forcing students to do demeaning or embarrassing acts 
  • extortion – forcing someone to give you money or material items

Verbal bullying:

  • constant teasing in a sarcastic and offensive manner 
  • name-calling and offensive nicknames
  • swearing to unsettle or upset others 
  • homophobic comments to cause distress 
  • racist or sexist comments 

Property Abuse:

  • Stealing money repeatedly 
  • Interfering with someone’s belongings 
  • Damaging other personal items 
  • Repeatedly hiding someone’s possessions

Cyber bullying:

Cyber bullying is a form of bullying that can have an impact on children who use email, text messaging, chat rooms, mobile phones, mobile phone cameras, discussion groups or web pages. Cyber bullying is covert psychological bullying as it involves repeated hostile behaviour that is intended to cause harm and distress.

Methods of cyber bullying include:

  • Texting derogatory messages on mobile phones 
  • Sending threatening emails 
  • Forwarding a confidential email on to several other people 
  • Ganging up on one student and bombarding him/her with emails 
  • Setting up a derogatory web site dedicated to a targeted student and inviting others to comment 
  • Participants in a chat room saying derogatory comments about or excluding someone. 
With other forms of bullying that take place, children receive some respite when they leave the school grounds and enter the safety of their own home. Cyber bullying is far more invasive than other forms of bullying in that victims may be exposed to it whenever they have access to their mobile phone or are using the Internet. This can potentially expose children to cyber bullying 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Cyber bullying can also be carried out anonymously and it is thought that while most children would not bully someone face to face, they are more likely to cyber bully someone where they can send the message without the person knowing it was them or without seeing the impact it has on the person. The impact of the written word that can be read over and over again can also be very powerful.

While the majority of mobile phone and computer usage is done outside of school hours, its effects can still have a major impact on school life. The College therefore includes mobile phone and internet usage in the College Bullying Policy.

Note: Other forms of conflict, including teasing and fighting amongst peers are not necessarily bullying. These may represent the normal dynamics of a particular friendship and children need to have the skills to deal with these situations. Conflict between students of roughly equal physical strength and/or social status may require implementation of the school’s behavioural policy.

The Bystander

Bullying is a social dynamic that involves all students, not just those bullying or being bullied. 

The bystander is the name given to the group of children who are not directly involved in either the bullying or being bullied. The action taken by this group has been shown to either discourage or support the person bullying. 

Bystanders can play an important role by being supportive of the person being bullied by seeking help, asking the person bullying to stop, by showing support for the behaviour or walking away.

The College Program to counter bullying focuses on how student bystanders can become motivated to assist peers. The expectations of the peer group are crucial to setting the tolerance levels for inappropriate behaviour, and in turn promoting pro-social outcomes.