School - Bullying

Disclaimer: The material in this factsheet is a general guide only. It is not legal advice. For legal advice about your own particular situation we encourage you to call the Free Legal Helpline on 1300 366 424. The legal information was correct at the time of publishing (April 2016), however may change without notice.



The Legal Services Commission gratefully acknowledges the assistance of the National Children’s and Youth Legal Centre and Victoria Legal Aid in allowing the Legal Services Commission of South Australia to use and adapt existing content. The Commission also acknowledges the use of information found through the Department of Education and Child Development and

In this section you will find information on:

  • Bullying and the law
  • What schools have to do about bullying
  • Other options for protection

Bullying and the Law

What is bullying?

It is something done deliberately against a person or group of people to upset or hurt them or damage their property, reputation or acceptance by others. Bullying can be in person or online, and it can be obvious or hidden.  Bullying can happen anywhere and anyone can be a bully, a teacher or a student, even a family member or someone you’ve had a close relationship with.

Bullying includes:

  • Verbal insults like teasing, name-calling, harassing;
  • Physical behaviour like hitting, kicking, pushing;
  • “Mucking about” that goes too far;
  • Cyber-bullying like offensive text messages and emails, on Facebook or in chat rooms;
  • Anti-social behaviour like exclusion, gossip, spreading rumours or offensive signals.

Is bullying illegal?

In the most severe cases, bullying behaviours can now be treated as a crime. Schools and employers must try their best to make you feel safe and stop bullying from happening. For example, most schools and employers should have policies about bullying.

Bullying may be considered a crime if someone:

  • Causes you physical or mental harm and means to do it;
  • Threatens to hurt or kill you;
  • Stalks you (stalking is when someone follows, watches, or contacts you repeatedly in a way that scares you and they are intentionally meaning to make you afraid; or
  • Damages your stuff on purpose or steals from you.

It becomes cyber-bullying if they use their mobile or the internet to do any of these to you. It can also be a crime to use a mobile phone or the internet in to threaten, harass or seriously offend somebody.

See the Law Handbook page on Stalking, Cyber Stalking and Cyber Bullying for more information.

The bullying might also be against the law if it falls under a protected category of discrimination (for example discrimination based on race or gender) see the factsheet on Discrimination for more information.

What do schools have to do about bullying?

All public schools in SA are required to have anti-bullying plans in place to deal with bullying and cyber-bullying. You should be able to find your school’s anti-bullying plan on your school website. You can also ask your school about their anti-bullying plan and see what the school is doing to stop bullying from happening.

Your school has to make sure that students are not bullied or harassed and that it is a safe place for you to be. Your school should teach students about bullying and make sure school is a place where bullying is not attempted or tolerated. It should have a clear process for students to report bullying, and provide support for students who have been affected by bullying. If you are being bullied at school or outside school, tell someone about what is happening to you. Someone at your school must quickly respond to the situation.

Will telling someone that I’m being bullied help?

You have the right to feel safe. You may be able to solve the problem by just ignoring the bully. But if you feel threatened, it is important that you tell someone what is happening.

Telling someone that you are being bullied is important. It can make you feel better because you don’t have to deal with the problem on your own. Telling somebody, even just your friends, can make you feel supported. It shares the problem, and allows you to get advice and help to stop the bullying.

Who can I tell?

  • Tell your friends – they can help you tell a teacher or your parents or just make you feel better.
  • Tell your parents - tell them the who, what, when and where of what's been happening.
  • Tell your school, your teachers or the Principal - tell them the who, what, when and where.
  • Call KidsHelpline on 1800 55 1800 if you can’t talk to someone face to face. They provide free phone counselling 24 hours a day/7 days a week.  Sometimes there can be a delay in getting through, so we encourage you to keep trying.  It is free from all mobile phones, it doesn’t matter which provider you are with.

    Kids Helpline online chat: You can also chat online with someone during certain hours at

Report bullying to the school

If you’re being bullied at school, you can:

  1. Meet with the school

You can make a complaint to the school by meeting with the Principal. Ask your parents or someone you trust to come with you, especially if you are scared or worried about it. Your school should work with you to try and figure out a plan to stop the bullying. Your school should still be able to help you even if the bullying is not taking place at school itself (for example it is online).

  1. Make a complaint to the regional office of the Department of Education

If you have spoken to the Principal and you are not happy with their response, you and your parents can make a complaint to the local regional office of the Department of Education and Child Development.  To find out what the name of your regional office is called, you or your parents need to call the switchboard on (08) 82261000. Then you can call the Manager, Regional Support Services or the Regional Director of your education office. 

When making a complaint you will have to explain why you think your school has failed make the bullying stop. Your school’s anti-bullying plan may be a useful place for you to start in looking at what your school should do to address bullying. You should be able to find this on your school website.

If you have made a complaint to the regional office and you are not happy with their response, you can make a complaint to the state-wide Education Complaint Unit.  You can contact them by phone on 1800 677 435, or email them at

Other options for protection

Can I call the police?

If someone has threatened to harm you or has actually harmed you this is a serious crime and can be reported to police. If the police believe that is appropriate to follow through, the bully could be charged with a criminal offence, or the bully may be cautioned from doing that kind of behaviour again. If a bully has damaged or stolen your things, you can also report this to the police.

If you are being bullied online, texts, voicemails, screenshots of web pages and other forms of electronic evidence should be carefully saved and backed up. Printouts should also be made wherever possible and shown to the police. The correct contact details of the person who is bullying you will also be helpful.

Seeking protection

If the bullying is really bad and it won’t stop, you might be able to go to Court to get a special order to make the person stop. Courts are able to make special Intervention Orders to protect you from people who are stalking or bullying you.  A court can even order someone not to contact you (including by phone or on the internet). The court can sometimes be reluctant to make these kinds of orders when the people involved go to the same school, so this is probably a last resort option. See the Law Handbook about Intervention Orders or call the free Legal Help Line on 1300 366 424 for more information.



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