02 May Our Schools have a duty of care
Schools and their teaching staff have a duty to take reasonable care for the safety and wellbeing of students while students are at school or are involved in a school activity.
Satisfying this duty of care involves:
- Providing a safe environment for students and staff
- Providing supervision of students
- Implementing anti-bullying strategies
- Caring for injured students (injury can stem from psychological as well as physical harm)
- Taking reasonable precautions to prevent a foreseeable and significant risk
- Taking precautions to avoid the risk of harm, taking into account the social utility of the risk-creating activity.
Meeting this duty of care is becoming more difficult with the rapid increase in digital technologies. If cyberbullying (taking place outside of school hours) impacts a student’s wellbeing, the school might be considered to have a duty of care extending beyond the child’s time at school.
Schools might be liable for psychological injury resulting from cyberbullying* and need to be clear about where their duty of care in this respect begins and ends. Schools need to adopt risk management approaches until this has greater clarity**. To minimise risk, schools are advised to***:
- Learn about the online world and cyberbullying
- Amend and update policies to take cyberbullying into account
- Train staff in these policies and how to ensure their students are cyber safe
- Ensure they understand the effects of bullying on young people
- Gather information on bullying in a particular setting and discuss its implications
- Use positive student management
- Adopt proactive ways of dealing with prejudice and discrimination
- Educate parents and students
*Goff, W., Presentation delivered at Digital Diversity conference, Melbourne 2010 ** Ibid.
***Ford, D., Cyber bullying, June 2007
This information came from the National Centre Against Bullying
See also the Cost of Bullying