When your child encounters bullying or discrimination at school,
what can you do as a parent to protect your children’s rights?
Racial discrimination and bullying in schools have always been serious issues globally, especially in western countries. There is a large amount of evidence showing that school bullying will have a serious negative impact on social skills, personality development and mental health of the child. Therefore, parents should pay great attention to and deal with any incidents of racial discrimination or school bullying in a timely manner. In recent years, bullying and racial discrimination issues in schools have been taken more seriously around the world. The Victorian Government has implemented various anti-bullying schemes to prevent and eliminate bullying and racial discrimination in schools. In this article, we will discuss what parents can do to defend their children’s rights when facing bullying or racism at school.
The broad definition of bullying
Bullying is not just physical violence at school. Long-term verbal abuse can also constitute bullying. It can occur at school, home or online. According to the information from the Victorian Department of Education’s website, there is a uniform definition of bullying across Australia:
Bullying is an ongoing and deliberate misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that intends to cause physical, social and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power, or perceived power, over one or more persons who feel unable to stop it from happening.
Bullying can happen in real life or online; Bullying doesn’t have to be overt overt behavior, sometimes it can be covert behavior; Bullying can also have negative consequences that can be repeated (for example, by disclosing the victim’s private information or photos so that others can see them again and again).Bullying can happen in person or online, via various digital platforms and devices and it can be obvious (overt) or hidden (covert). Bullying behaviour is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time (for example, through sharing of digital records).Bullying of any form or for any reason can have immediate, medium and 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.”
Anti-Bullying and Mental Health Initiative launched the Victorian Anti-Bullying and Mental Health Initiative. The Initiative includes the following projects – Bully Stoppers, Mental Health Programs, E-smart, Behaviour Programs, Respectful Relationships, Safe Schools, Suicide Prevention, and Combating Racism.Anti BullyingNo matter what forms of bullying, students or parents can report the incident or seek support via visiting the website. The following is a quick guide to get help if your child is being or has been bullied or discriminated against at school.
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Who to speak to?
Parents should first engage in communication with the school and their child after discovering that your child has been bullied by others at school. We advise parents to inform the school via email such that there is a proof of notice made to the school, that should take on the responsibility to stop the bullying behaviour. Additionally, parents can also get support through several other channels.The Department of Education’s Bully Stoppers program provides support to parents, students, teachers and principals to prevent bullying behaviour. You may reach out to the following services for help.
Kids Helpline | 1800 551 800
Kids Helpline offers a 24/7 free, online and phone counselling service where for young people aged 5 to 25.Lifeline Australia | 13 11 14Lifeline Australia also offers a 24-hour access to crisis support and suicide prevention services.Parentline Victoria | 132289Parentline provides free phone consultations for parents on parenting issues and advice, available 8 am to 12 midnight – 7 days a week, every day of the year.Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636A 24-hour free telephone support service for people suffering from mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. The Beyond Blue website (https://www.beyondblue.org.au/) also provides an online web chat service between 3pm-12am.
What if my child is racially discriminated against?If your child has been racially discriminated at school, parents should report the event/s to the school as soon as possible and discuss with the school how to solve the matter in a timely manner.If you have already communicated with the school and are not satisfied with the school’s response, you can lodge a complaint at the local office of the Department of Education. You can find the address and contact number of the closest office in your area by visiting the following website:https://www.education.vic.gov.au/about/department/structure/Pages/regions.aspxIf you have already contacted the local office to make a complaint but are still not satisfied with the way in which the matter is being handled, you can contact the Department’s central office via (03) 8688 7885 or by email to [email protected], you may call the Report Racism Hotline on 1800 722 476 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. In an emergency, contact the police on 000. If the situation is not urgent but you believe that it is necessary to report to the police, you can call 13 14 44 or send an email to [email protected] If you have a language barrier, you can call 13 14 50 for translation services.In addition to the above services provided by the Department of Education, the following agencies are also responsible for resolving disputes related to racial discrimination.
Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission
Australian Human Rights Commission
Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT)
If neither of the above agencies can assist with your matter, you may apply to the VCAT to resolve the matter. Before you apply, you may contact 1300 018 228 (available from 9am to 4:30pm, Monday to Friday) to confirm whether VCAT can hear your case.
You may also consult with one of our lawyers, who can assist you and your child to uphold your rights. We sincerely hope that the victims and parents can bravely stand up to stop the bullying as this kind of behaviour is in no way acceptable.
This article is only a general guide and does not apply to readers’ individual cases. Based on the information provided, readers should not make any legal decisions without seeking professional legal advice from an Australian Legal Practitioner. Fumens Lawyers hereby declares that readers who refer to this article do not constitute a lawyer-client relationship with our firm, therefore, Fumens Lawyers will not be liable for any losses caused as a result of relying on the information contained within this article.