Bullying Is a Serious Issue: It Is a Crime!

Phillip Slee, David Ford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Australian research into school bullying has increased our understanding of issues such as: (i) its frequency; (ii) its nature; (iii) its impact on those involved; and (iv) the effects of intervention programs. In the light of this research, it has become apparent that those bullied have various legal remedies. As a background to considering, in particular, the tort liability of school authorities, Australian research - based on surveys of over 25,000 students from more than 60 schools around the country - is presented in this article. The research indicates that approximately one in six students report being bullied on a weekly basis. Various developmental trends and gender differences are identifiable as part of the bullying experience. A range of Australian studies has identified the deleterious sequelae to bullying. The most recent research indicates a link with poor health and with suicide. The social impact of bullying is reflected in its association with poor quality peer relations. In terms of psychological well being it has significant negative associations with depression, loneliness and anxiety. In this article it is argued that bullying is an identifiable form of aggressive behaviour. The research clearly indicates that bullying is physically harmful, psychologically damaging, socially isolating and associated with poor school adjustment. Evidence is presented that intervention programs have been shown to be effective in reducing, if not eliminating school bullying. Further, literature is reviewed which strongly suggests that in the face of such evidence schools are under considerable pressure to take steps to address the issue of bullying. The article concludes by noting that failure to take such measures may be considered as a failure to fully discharge a school authority’s duty of care.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-39
JournalAustralia & New Zealand Journal of Law & Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1999


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