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Bullying at School

If you are under 25 and you are unsure about your rights or responsibilities or what to do next, you can get free, confidential legal advice at Lawmail.

This page is based on the law about bullying at public schools in Western Australia.

Bullying is never okay no matter what school you go to. If you attend a private school and need information about bullying and what you can do about it you'll find the information on this page helpful.


What is bullying?

Bullying is behaviour that:

  • targets a certain person or group of people;
  • happens more than once; and
  • threatens or harms the person being bullied.
Bullying includes:
  • Verbal insults like teasing, name-calling, harassing, nasty notes and homophobic, racist or sexist comments;
  • Emotional bullying like repeated stalking, threats to a person’s safety or reputation;
  • Physical behaviour like hitting, kicking, pushing;
  • Cyber-bullying (link: to cyber-bullying page) like offensive SMS and emails, on Facebook or in chat rooms;
  • Anti-social behaviour like exclusion, gossip, spreading rumours or offensive gestures.

Where can it happen?

Bullying can happen anywhere like at school, in parks, on your way to school or in other places used by the school.  It can even happen in places away from school and outside of school hours, like in cyberspace, via SMS, Facebook or email.  

Is bullying illegal?

Bullying can be illegal. It is a crime if someone:

  • is physically violent to you;
  • threatens you;
  • stalks you  (stalking includes following, watching, or contacting you repeatedly in a way that scares you);
  • damages  or steal your stuff. 

It’s also against the law (but not a crime) if someone harasses you because of your:

  • race;
  • gender identity;
  • sexual preference;  or
  • impairment.

You may be able to make a discrimination complaint to the government if this happens. For more information on discrimination complaints, please visit our Lawstuff page on Discrimination.

It becomes cyber-bullying if they use their mobile or the internet to do any of these to you. It is also a crime to cyber-bully someone. Please visit our Lawstuff page on Cyber-bullying for more information.

I’m being bullied at school - what can I do about it?

Bullying is not OK and you don’t have to put up with it. 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.  

Will telling someone help?

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 who, what, when and where of what's been happening;
  • Tell your school – we explain more about how to do this below;
  • Call Kids Helpline 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’s 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.

Telling your school about bullying.

All schools in Western Australia are required to have anti-bullying plans in place to deal with bullying and cyber-bullying.  You can ask your school about their anti-bullying plan (sometimes called Managing Student Behaviour plan) and see what the school is doing to stop bullying from happening. Your school should also make sure that students are not bullied or harassed and that it is a safe place for you to be. You can find your school’s anti-bullying plan through Schools Online.

Your school should teach students about bullying and create a climate where it is not attempted or tolerated. It should have a clear procedure 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.


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

1. Lodge a formal complaint with your school.
The school has a legal duty to do something about the bullying if it is happening at school.  If telling someone is not enough to stop the bully’s behaviour, you can make a formal complaint to the school. Ask your parents or someone you trust to help make the complaint with you, especially if you are scared or worried about it.  You can make a complaint by arranging a meeting with your school principal and your parents.

2. Make a complaint to the Regional or Local Education Office of the Department of Education.

If the school doesn’t do anything after you make a complaint, you can make a complaint to the Regional or Local Education Office of Department of Education.  You can find your local education office here.

You can read the Department’s information about how to put in a complaint here. Also check out this factsheet on how your parents can talk to your school.

Keep details
It’s a good idea to record as many details as possible about situations in which you are being bullied. When making a complaint you will have to provide detailed information about the incidents and show why you think your school has failed to do to make the bullying stop. 


Reporting to police.

If someone has or has threatened to physically hurt you or sexually harass you, you can report this to the police. It is illegal for the bully to harass you and if your bully is over 10 years old , they could be charged with a crime.

If you have been threatened or physically harmed, you can report this to the police: 

  • If the bully has physically harmed you, the maximum penalty is  5 years in prison;
  • If the bully has made threats to physically harm you, the maximum penalty is 3 years in prison;
  • If the bully has sexually assault you, the maximum penalty is 20 years in prison.

It’s very unlikely that a person under 18 would go to jail for hurting someone, but it is possible.

If your things have been damaged or stolen, you can also report to the police:  

  • If the bully took away your things against your will, maximum penalty is 7 years in prison.
  • If the bully demands things from you so that they can take it away, maximum penalty is 7 years in prison.
  • If the bully damages your things, maximum penalty is 10 years in prison.

Seeking protection.

In very special circumstances, courts are able to make special “Restraining Order” to protect you from people who are stalking or bullying you. The exact orders will depend on the individual case, but will determine if they are allowed to contact you (including by phone or on the internet).

You can voluntarily apply for a Restraining Order at your Magistrate Court if you are 18 years or older . If you are under 18 years, a police officer or a parent/guardian can apply for a Restraining Order on your behalf . You can find some information on how to make an application here.

Taking legal action.

In some instances you and your parents can take legal action against the bullies or the school. This is because the school has a “duty of care” to ensure the safety of all its students.  In simple terms, this means that the school must ensure that the students are safe from potential harm caused by bullying.  But before your parents think about legal action, it is important that they speak to your school first and see if they can sort of the problem at that level.   

Real life example:
In 2011, a high school girl in NSW succeeded in suing her school for failing to protect her from being bullied at school. The school had an anti-bullying policy, but they failed to use it in a way that kept the girl from being bullied. As a result, the girl experienced severe anxiety, depression and other symptoms. The court ordered the school to compensate the girl for her suffering.

Taking legal action is complicated and expensive, and you have to be able to show that the bullying must have caused very serious emotional harm.  

This page was last updated on 16 March 2015.



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