Bullying Prevention Policy

Purpose

Heatherwood School is committed to providing a safe and respectful learning environment where bullying will not be tolerated.

The purpose of this policy is to:

  • explain the definition of bullying
  • make clear that all forms of bullying at Heatherwood School will not be tolerated
  • ask that everyone in our school community be alert to signs and evidence of bullying behaviour, and accept responsibility to report bullying behaviour to school staff
  • ensure that all reported incidents of bullying are appropriately investigated and addressed
  • ensure that support is provided to students who may be affected by bullying behaviour (including victims, bystanders and perpetrators)
  • seek parental and peer group support in addressing and preventing bullying behaviour at Heatherwood School.

When responding to bullying behaviour, Heatherwood School aims to:

  • be proportionate, consistent and responsive
  • find a constructive and positive solution for everyone
  • stop the bullying from happening again
  • restore the relationships between the students involved.

Heatherwood School acknowledges that school staff owe a duty of care to students to take reasonable steps to reduce the risk of reasonably foreseeable harm, which can include harm that may be caused by bullying behaviour.

Scope

This policy addresses how Heatherwood School aims to prevent and respond to student bullying behaviour. Heatherwood School recognises that there are many other types of inappropriate student behaviours that do not meet the definition of bullying which are also unacceptable at our school. These other inappropriate behaviours will be managed in accordance with our Student Code of Conduct and Student Wellbeing and Engagement Policy and Equal Opportunity policy.

This policy applies to all school activities, including camps and excursions.

Policy

Definitions

Bullying occurs when someone, or a group of people, deliberately and repeatedly upset, harass, intimidate, threaten or hurt another person or damage their property, reputation or social acceptance. There is an imbalance of power in incidents of bullying, where the bully or bullies have more power than the victim due to their age, size, status or other reasons.

Bullying may be direct or indirect, physical or verbal, and includes cyberbullying. Bullying is not a one-off disagreement between two or more people or a situation of mutual dislike. In this policy any reference to ‘bullying’ includes all forms of bullying including cyberbullying.

Bullying can be:

  1. direct physical bullying ­­– e.g. hitting, tripping, and pushing or damaging property.
  2. direct verbal bullying – e.g. name calling, insults, homophobic or racist remarks, verbal abuse.
  3. indirect bullying – e.g. spreading rumours, playing nasty jokes to embarrass and humiliate, mimicking, encouraging others to socially exclude a person and/or damaging a person’s social reputation or social acceptance.

Harassment can also constitute bullying if it amounts to a pattern of behaviour or course of conduct towards another person that is demeaning, offensive or intimidating to a person.

Cyberbullying is direct or indirect bullying behaviours using digital technology. For example via a mobile phone, tablets, computers, chat rooms, email, social media, etc. It can be verbal, written or include use of images, video and/or audio.

Other distressing behaviours

Many distressing behaviours may not constitute bullying even though they are unpleasant. Students who are involved in or who witness any distressing behaviours should report their concerns to school staff and our school will follow the Student Wellbeing and Engagement Policy/Student Engagement Policy/Code of Conduct. Mutual conflict involves an argument or disagreement between people with no imbalance of power. In incidents of mutual conflict, generally, both parties are upset and usually both want a resolution to the issue. Unresolved mutual conflict can develop into bullying if one of the parties targets the other repeatedly in retaliation.

Social rejection or dislike is not bullying unless it involves deliberate and repeated attempts to cause distress, exclude or create dislike by others.

Single-episode acts of harassment, nastiness or physical aggression are not the same as bullying. If someone is verbally abused or pushed on one occasion, they are not being bullied. Harassment, nastiness or physical aggression that is directed towards many different people is not the same as bullying. However, single episodes of harassment, nastiness or physical aggression are not acceptable behaviours at our school.

Bullying Prevention

Heatherwood School conducts an effective Protective Behaviours program that is proactive in educating students about all forms of bullying. Heatherwood School also endorses the School Wide Positive Behaviour Support program.

Heatherwood School has a number of programs and strategies in place to build a positive and inclusive school culture. We strive to foster a school culture that prevents bullying behaviour by modelling and encouraging behaviour that demonstrates acceptance, kindness and respect.

Bullying prevention at Heatherwood School is proactive and is supported by research that indicates that a whole school, multifaceted approach is the most effect way to prevent and address bullying. At our school:

  • We have a positive school environment that provides safety, security and support for students and promotes positive relationships and wellbeing.
  • We strive to build strong partnerships between the school, families and the broader community that means all members work together to ensure the safety of students.
  • Teachers are encouraged to incorporate classroom management strategies that discourage bullying and promote positive behaviour.
  • A range of year level incursions and programs are planned for each year to raise awareness about bullying and its impacts.
  • In the classroom, our social and emotional learning curriculum teaches students what constitutes bullying and how to respond to bullying behaviour assertively. This promotes resilience, assertiveness, conflict resolution and problem solving.
  • The Peer Support Program and the Peer Mediation program encourage positive relationships between students in different year levels. We seek to empower students to be confident communicators and to resolve conflict in a non-aggressive and constructive way.
  • Students are encouraged to look out for each other and to talk to teachers and older peers about any bullying they have experienced or witnessed.
  • We have bully incident forms where students can report bullying.
  • We have Re- engagement staff who will support students who feel they have been bullied.

For further information about our engagement and wellbeing initiatives, please see our Student Wellbeing and Engagement policy/Student Engagement Policy. 

Incident Response

Reporting concerns to Heatherwood School

Bullying complaints will be taken seriously and responded to sensitively at our school.

Students who may be experiencing bullying behaviour, or students who have witnessed bullying behaviour, are encouraged to report their concerns to school staff as soon as possible.

In most circumstances, we encourage students to speak to the Assistant Principal in charge of Wellbeing, the Re –engagement staff, their teacher or a staff member on yard duty. However, students are welcome to discuss their concerns with any trusted member of staff including teachers, wellbeing staff, school social worker etc.

Parents or carers who may develop concerns that their child is involved in, or has witnessed bullying behaviour at Heatherwood School should contact Braham Morris, Assistant Principal –Student Wellbeing on 98428319.

Our ability to effectively reduce and eliminate bullying behaviour is greatly affected by students and/or parents and carers reporting concerning behaviour as soon as possible, so that the responses implemented by Heatherwood School are timely and appropriate in the circumstances.

Investigations

When notified of alleged bullying behaviour, school staff are required to:

  1. record the details of the allegations in an Incident report form or assist a student in filling out a Bully form.
  2. inform the classroom teacher and the Assistant Principal in charge of Wellbeing.

The Assistant Principal in charge of Wellbeing is responsible for investigating allegations of bullying in a timely and sensitive manner. To appropriately investigate an allegation of bullying, the Assistant Principal in charge of Wellbeing may:

  • speak to the students involved in the allegations, including the victim/s, the alleged perpetrator/s and any witnesses to the incidents
  • speak to the parents of the students involved
  • speak to the teachers of the students involved
  • take detailed notes of all discussions for future reference
  • obtain written statements from all or any of the above.

All communications with the Assistant Principal in charge of Wellbeing  in the course of investigating an allegation of bullying will be managed sensitively. Investigations will be completed as quickly as possible to allow for the behaviours to be addressed in a timely manner.

The objective of completing a thorough investigation into the circumstances of alleged bullying behaviour is to determine the nature of the conduct and the students involved. A thorough understanding of the alleged bullying will inform staff about how to most effectively implement an appropriate response to that behaviour.

Serious bullying, including serious cyberbullying, is a criminal offence and may be referred to Victoria Police. For more information, see: Brodie’s Law.

Responses to bullying behaviours

When Assistant Principal in charge of Wellbeing has sufficient information to understand the circumstances of the alleged bullying and the students involved, a number of strategies may be implemented to address the behaviour and support affected students in consultation with  Student Wellbeing Team, teachers, SSS, Assistant Principal, Principal, Department of Education and Training specialist staff etc.

There are a number of factors that will be considered when determining the most appropriate response to the behaviour. When making a decision about how to respond to bullying behaviour, Heatherwood School will consider:

  • the individual disabilities of the student
  • the age and maturity of the students involved
  • the severity and frequency of the bullying, and the impact it has had on the victim student
  • whether the perpetrator student or students have displayed similar behaviour before
  • whether the bullying took place in a group or one-to-one context
  • whether the perpetrator demonstrates insight or remorse for their behaviour
  • the alleged motive of the behaviour, including any element of provocation.

 The Assistant Principal- Wellbeing,  may implement all, or some of the following responses to bullying behaviours:

  • Offer counselling support to the victim student or students, including referral to the Student Wellbeing Team, SSS, external provider.
  • Offer counselling support to the perpetrator student or students, including referral to the Student Wellbeing Team, SSS, external provider.
  • Offer counselling support to affected students, including witnesses and/or friends of the victim student, including referral to the Student Wellbeing Team, SSS, external provider.
  • Facilitate a restorative practice meeting with all or some of the students involved. The objective of restorative practice is to repair relationships that have been damaged by bringing about a sense of remorse and restorative action on the part of the person who has bullied someone and forgiveness by the person who has been bullied.
  • Facilitate a mediation between some or all of the students involved to help to encourage students to take responsibility for their behaviour and explore underlying reasons for conflict or grievance. Mediation is only suitable if all students are involved voluntarily and demonstrate a willingness to engage in the mediation process.
  • Facilitate a process using the Support Group Method, involving the victim student(s), the perpetrator students and a group of students who are likely to be supportive of the victim(s).
  • Implement a Method of Shared Concern process with all students involved in the bullying.
  • Implement disciplinary consequences for the perpetrator students, which may include removal of privileges, detention, suspension and/or expulsion consistent with our Student Wellbeing and Engagement policy, the Ministerial Order on Suspensions and Expulsions and any other relevant Department policy.
  • Facilitate a Student Support Group meeting and/or Behaviour Support Plan for affected students.
  • Prepare a [Safety Plan or Individual Behaviour Management Plan] restricting contact between victim and perpetrator students.
  • Provide discussion and/or mentoring for different social and emotional learning competencies of the students involved, including buddy/Ambassador support and assistance with re-engaging from the –engagement team.
  • Monitor the behaviour of the students involved for an appropriate time and take follow up action if necessary.
  • Implement year group targeted strategies to reinforce positive behaviours, for example discussions at assemblies and in Protective Behaviour classes.

[The Re-engagement team is responsible for maintaining up to date records of the investigation of and responses to bullying behaviour.

Heatherwood School understands the importance of monitoring and following up on the progress of students who have been involved in or affected by bullying behaviour. Where appropriate, school staff will also endeavour to provide parents and carers with updates on the management of bullying incidents.   

Further information and resources

This policy should be read in conjunction with the following school policies:

  • Statement of Values and School Philosophy
  • Student Wellbeing and Engagement Policy
  • Parent Complaints policy
  • Duty of Care Policy
  • Inclusion and Diversity Policy
  • Equal Opportunity Policy

The following websites and resources provide useful information on prevention and responding to bullying, as well as supporting students who have been the target of bullying behaviours:

Evaluation

This policy will be reviewed on a 3 year cycle or earlier as required, following analysis of school data on reported incidents of, and responses to bullying to ensure that the policy remains up to date, practical and effective.

Data will be collected through:

  • discussion with students
  • regular student bullying forms
  • regular staff surveys
  • assessment of school based data, including the number of reported incidents of bullying in each year group and the effectiveness of the responses implemented.


Proposed amendments to this policy will be discussed with the Re-engagement team, student representative groups, the Leadership team and  school council]

Review cycle

This policy was last updated on November 2018 and is scheduled for review in 2021.