|What is the law on bullying in school?
Pupils have the right to be educated in an atmosphere which is free from fear. Head teachers and others responsible for running schools have a duty to do all that they reasonably can to protect pupils in their charge from intimidation, assault or harassment. This right and this duty are enshrined within documents such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 and the European Convention on Human Rights.
It should also be remembered that schools are subject to the law of the land. Assault, harassment and intimidation are offences, whatever the age of the perpetrator or victim.
Although there is no law which states that Scottish schools must have a specific anti-bullying policy, documents such as "Action Against Bullying", which was distributed to all schools in Scotland in 1992, contain a strong recommendation that they should. This recommendation has been endorsed by local authorities, the Scottish Office and its successor, the Scottish Executive.
|When should bullying be referred to the police or
to the Reporter to the Children's Hearing?
The legal system is rarely involved in dealing with school bullying. There are very good reasons for this. Less serious bullying can and should be dealt with within the school. By working together, parents, teachers, pupils and other members of the wider school community develop effective reactive strategies which can be implemented quickly. It is most important that bullying is resolved as quickly as possible before any serious damage is done to the personal development or education of the young people involved.
However there may be circumstances in which the police are called in, either as a last resort or because of the seriousness of an incident. Anyone can make a complaint about bullying to the police. Teachers, parents or other members of a school community may decide to do so if:
There may be occasions when an episode of bullying involves incidents both in and out of school. In such circumstances it is vital for teachers and parents to work in co-operation with the police and other appropriate agencies such as social services or youth organisations.
|What can the police do?
Schools and the police are developing new ways of working together pro-actively to prevent bullying. For example, in 1991 Lothian and Borders Police helped schools in the Liberton area of Edinburgh to produce a pack entitled, Speak Up. More recently Grampian Police have produced a CD-ROM for schools entitled, Learning for Life.
The police will investigate reports of serious incidents of physical bullying or harassment. If they are satisfied that an offence has been committed and that a person or persons who may be responsible have been identified and are under 16 they will normally send a report to the Reporter to the Children's Hearing. The Reporter will then decide whether or not to call a hearing to discuss the case. Sometimes a hearing will be called to discuss the welfare of a victim of bullying. This happened when one girl stopped attending school because she said she was so frightened of bullies at her school. The police may decide that there is insufficient evidence to justify a referral to the Reporter but officers may be able to help by speaking to the young people involved and to their families.
|Can solicitors help?
A small number of people in Scotland have taken a claim against local authorities to court. In other countries such as Sweden, Ireland, England and Australia such cases have been more common. If a parent or an adult victim decides to take this course they should consult a solicitor for advice or contact the Scottish Child Law Centre for information (see below).
|What are the advantages of taking legal action?
|What are the disadvantages of taking legal
|13 January 2000
comments or questions about this information sheet should be directed to Andrew
Mellor at the Anti-Bullying Network.