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Managing bullying in schools can be difficult for both the parents and the children and it is often difficult to determine the actions that can be taken as a parent.
Bullying can be defined as behaviour that could be threatening, harmful or intending to cause humiliation or harm to another person. Bullying behaviour may include assault, threats, name-calling or cyberbullying, and is likely to occur over a period of time rather than being a one-off incident.
Some forms of bullying such as physical assault can also fall within a criminal offence and become reportable to both the police and the school.
Legality in schools
The Anti-discrimination Law applies under the Equality Act 2010 in England, Wales, and Scotland. This act protects and prevents discrimination, harassment, and victimisation against an individual and within schools.
Northern Ireland is covered by The Race Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1997 & The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 to protect against inappropriate bullying or discriminatory behaviour.
The Republic of Ireland is covered by the Equal Status Act 2000 which protects individuals against bullying or discriminatory behaviour.
All state schools are required to have a behaviour policy in place which teachers, pupils and parents can have access to and must follow. The policy is designed to protect and prevent any child from being subject to any type of bullying and to give individuals the ability to report any bullying to a member of staff in the school. All reports of bullying must be investigated in line with the policy and an outcome reached to resolve the concern raised.
Raising a concern
If your child has raised that they feel they are being bullied or discriminated within their school, parents can report this directly to the school and request they investigate the behaviour. If you feel that the school have not correctly implemented or followed the policy, parents can raise a formal complaint within the school asking that they review their process. The complaint should first be raised to the deputy head to investigate and can then be escalated to the Head Teacher where appropriate.
However, if the bullying continues or if parents feel that the complaints procedures have not been correctly implemented, you are able to escalate the complaint further to the board of governors who are independent of the school. The purpose of the board is the ensure the school is following the correct procedures and is implementing any policies correctly.
Finally, before considering legal action parents should raise their concerns with the Department of Education within the local government. This department are responsible for ensuring that schools are following government guidelines and regulations in line with the policies of the school.
If internal complaints have been exhausted, you could consider taking legal action as a final option. In the first instance, you would need to gather all evidence and send a letter before action to the school directly advising that you intend to take legal action if this issue is not resolved. The letter should contain details of the concern, reasons this is of a particular concern, any negligence you feel has been present and your ideal outcome. The school should be given 14 days to respond to this letter before any legal action is taken.
To make a claim, there will need to be proof of negligence against the school which means the school will be held liable if they have failed in their duty of care to a child and to implement an anti-bullying policy and because of this, the child has suffered from serious harm.
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