Bullying can range from name calling and verbal abuse to serious physical and/or mental abuse of a child by another child. This can happen on or off school premises. Parents should be alert to signs of bullying, such as a child who is reluctant to go to school, becomes withdrawn, has difficulties sleeping or experiences sudden loss of appetite. Children often struggle academically when they are being bullied.
Parents should ensure that all complaints of bullying are addressed in writing with the school. It is important that parents keep a written record of incidents, keeping a diary of all incidents can be very helpful.
It is also important that parents record any displays of distress and upset and any physical injuries. These can also be recorded in a diary. If the child has physical injuries, then it is important that, if possible, these are seen by a GP and recorded.
If you are unhappy with the way the school deals with the bullying issue, then you need to follow the school’s complaints procedure. Each school will have a complaints procedure.
All state maintained schools must have a complaints procedure. It is advisable to request a copy of the complaints procedure from the school. In most schools the complaints procedure will state that after complaining to the Head, the next stage is to complain to the School Governors. If this does not bring a satisfactory resolution, you may be able to pursue your complaint to the Local Authority. Thereafter, the matter may be referred to the Local Government Ombudsman and/or the Secretary of State.
Independent schools will also have a complaints procedure but you will not be able to pursue a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman or the Secretary of State.
If the bullying, either physical or spoken, is extremely serious, a complaint to the police should be made. You should, however, know that if the “bully” is under 10 years of age, they are considered to be too young to be criminally responsible for their crimes and it is unlikely the Police will take any action.
We can help if the school won’t provide a copy of its policy or if teachers or staff won’t discuss an incident. We can help you present your case to the school or correspond with the school on your behalf.
If the school failed to adequately protect your child, it may be possible to make a claim of negligence against the school, as all schools have a duty of care towards their pupils. Such claims are made in the County Court. For such a claim to succeed your child must have suffered some damage and the Court must be convinced that the school or the Local Authority could have foreseen the risk and could have taken action to prevent it. Although such claims can be difficult we are able to advise you on the merits of such cases.
If a school fails to investigate and take action where bullying has been reported it may be possible to commence a High Court action of Judicial Review against the school. We can advise you on the merits of bringing such a case.
Although unpalatable, a practical solution may be to consider a change of school. If you are considering a change of school we will be able to advise you about your options and about applying for a place at a different school.
You may find the bullying UK website helpful – www.bullying.co.uk