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.

Australian Student Wellbeing Framework

The Australian Student Wellbeing Framework supports Australian schools to promote positive relationships and the wellbeing of students and educators within safe, inclusive and connected learning communities. The ASWF consists of an overarching vision, key elements, guiding principles, and effective practices to support the whole school community to build and maintain safety, positive relationships and wellbeing.

The wellbeing of children and young people is enhanced and their learning outcomes optimised when they feel connected to others and experience safe and trusting relationships. Students who feel connected, safe and secure are more likely to be active participants in their learning and to achieve better physical, emotional, social and educational outcomes.

The five key elements of good practice are:

  1. LEADERSHIP: Visible leadership to inspire positive school communities
  2. INCLUSION: Inclusive and connected school culture
  3. STUDENT VOICE: Authentic student participation
  4. PARTNERSHIPS: Effective family and community partnerships
  5. SUPPORT: Wellbeing and support for positive behaviour

Providence Christian College is required to report on its policies, programs and procedures in line with the five key elements listed above.

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.

Disciplinary action will be taken in any of the following instances:

  • Any student/s caught using an electronic device to cheat in exams or assessments.
  • Any student who uses vulgar, derogatory, or obscene language while using an electronic device.
  • Students, with the aid of electronic device/s, engaging in personal attacks, harassing another person, or posting private information about another person by any means. The College takes a strong stance against bullying in any manner or form.
  • As it is also a criminal offence to menace, harass or offend another person, the College will report such actions to the Police.
  • As it is also a criminal offence to distribute intimate images or threaten to distribute intimate images, any student doing so will be reported to the Police.

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 relationships 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. The College provides a direct email address for students and parents to report bullying directly to the Deputy Principal and the College Counsellor, ie. reportbullying@providence.wa.edu.au 

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 (others; eg. Duty Teacher)

Layer 2: Year Coordinators (Middle School) / (Other Teachers)

Layer 3: College Chaplain and College Psychologist, Student Development Coordinator (Primary)

Layer 4: Heads of School, Deputy Principal and Principal

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

Response strategy

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, Year Coordinator, Student Development Coordinator, Head of School, College Counsellor 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 Head of School 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 a Behavioural Level of Concern (1, 2 or 3 depending the severity) 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.

APPENDIX 1  – Definitions

Bullying 

Bullying is an ongoing misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that causes physical and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power over one or more persons.

Bullying can happen in person or online, and it can be obvious (overt) or hidden (covert). Bullying of any form or for any reason can have long-term effects on those involved, including bystanders.

Single incidents and conflict or fights between equals, whether in person or online, are not defined as bullying. However, these conflicts still need to be addressed and resolved.

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
  • triggering – putting pressure on any student to react badly, e.g., taunting the student so that they get angry, this is most significant when it is done knowing that they have a tendency to react badly due to a psychological, or other disability or disorder
  • 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 website 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 cyberbullying 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 cyberbully 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. 

Aims of Cyber bullying intervention:

  • To reinforce within the school community what cyberbullying is and the fact that it is unacceptable.
  • Everyone within the school community to be alert to signs and evidence of cyberbullying and to have a responsibility to report it to staff whether as observer or victim.
  • To ensure that all reported incidents of cyberbullying are investigated appropriately and that support is given to both victims and perpetrators.
  • To seek parental and peer-group support and cooperation 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 countermeasures.
  • Educate the school community about the seriousness of cyberbullying, its impact on those being bullied and how this behaviour is unacceptable
  • Community awareness and input relating to bullying (including cyberbullying), 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 cyberbullying 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 logins 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 closed intranet technology to allow for the monitoring of all student internet activity within the College (eg: Go-Guardian, Profanity Filter).
  • 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-bullying 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 College 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 the yard.
    • withdrawal of privileges.
    • ongoing counselling from appropriate agencies for both victim and bully.
    • suspension.
    • expulsion.
  • Reinforcement of positive behaviours.
  • Support Structures.
  • Ongoing monitoring of identified bullies.
  • Rewards for positive behaviour.
  • 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.

Harassment:

Behaviour that targets an individual or group due to their identity, race, culture or ethnic origin; religion; physical characteristics; gender; sexual orientation; marital, parenting or economic status; age; ability or disability and that offends, humiliates, intimidates or creates a hostile environment. 

Harassment may be an ongoing pattern of behaviour, or it may be a single act. It may be directed randomly or towards the same person/s. It may be intentional or unintentional (i.e. words or actions that offend and distress one person may be genuinely regarded by the person doing them as minor or harmless).

APPENDIX 2 – Indicators of Bullying

Each individual student who is being bullied or is bullying others will respond and act differently. A student’s behaviours and moods can also change for a variety of reasons.

Much bullying behaviour occurs out of sight of adults; however, a staff member is well placed to notice behaviour changes in a student they know, which may indicate the effects of bullying, including cyber bullying (Source: Bullying.No way).

Signs a teacher may notice:

  • becomes aggressive and unreasonable
  • change in student’s demeanour/ engagement/ attendance
  • starts getting into fights
  • refuses to talk about what is wrong
  • student displays change in personality, for example more withdrawn, anxious, sad, angry etc
  • unexpected changes in their friendship groups
  • excessive sleepiness or lack of focus in the classroom and in other activities
  • higher levels of absenteeism
  • decline in school work
  • suicidal thoughts – these should be reported to leadership and parents/carers immediately.

Sometimes bullying can be less obvious. Signs can include:

  • student is often alone or excluded from friendship groups at school
  • student is a frequent target for teasing, mimicking or ridicule at school
  • change in the student’s ability or willingness to speak up in class and appears insecure or frightened.

Signs a parent may report:

  • doesn’t want to go to school
  • changes their method or route to school or are frightened of walking to school
  • changes in sleep patterns
  • changes in eating patterns
  • frequent tears, anger, mood swings
  • unexplained bruises, cuts, scratches
  • missing or damaged belongings or clothes
  • decline in physical health
  • arriving home hungry.

Students who are more likely to be bullied are also more likely to:

  • feel disconnected from school and not like school
  • lack quality friendships at school
  • display high levels of emotionality that indicate vulnerability and low levels of resilience
  • be less accepted by peers, avoid conflict and be socially withdrawn
  • have low self-esteem or negative self-perception
  • be relatively non-assertive
  • be different in some way.

While all of the above are signs of possible bullying, they may also be signs that something else is happening with the child. Referral to the appropriate school personnel to determine the cause of the issues is recommended.