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Ask a Professional: Cyber Bullying and School Refusal

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Ask a Professional: Cyber Bullying and School Refusal

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Ask a Professional: Cyber Bullying and School Refusal

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Ask A Child And Family Professional

My daughter is currently in year 10, and is being bullied, not only at school but also cyber bullying. Most days she eats her lunch in the toilet, she spends class sitting alone, while these girls film her sitting alone in class and a lunch time and distribute on social media. The situation has gotten so bad that she is now refusing to attend school at all. How do you make a 15yr old girl go to school?
I have blocked the bullies from social media platforms but they always find a way to get to her whether it be creating a fake account to getting someone to get the message to her.
I have spoken to the school and guidance counsellors, and they are helpful but all want my daughter to lodge a formal complaint. My daughter refuses to put a formal report in as this girl has threatened her with physical abuse and believes this girl will stop at nothing. This girl has turned all my daughters friends against her by making up rumours and lying. I know this girl has done the same thing to 2 other students and was asked to leave one school.
Where do i go from here? My daughter is only 15 so she has to attend school, i don't want her to give up her education because of a bully.
We have only recently changed schools so i don't believe this is an option.
My once beautiful, positive and happy daughter is now negative, closed off and not willing to accept help from anyone.

Hi @Holly_p,

I’m so sorry to hear that your daughter has experienced such awful behaviour from others.

People who are abusive to others often will make threats to discourage people from speaking up, so it is understandable your daughter would feel frightened about making a formal complaint.

The school does have a responsibility to provide a safe environment for all students, so they should have a plan in place for how they keep students reporting bullying safe and be able to tell you what steps they can take to make sure your daughter doesn’t face negative consequences for reporting. This is something which it is reasonable to expect the school to be able to tell you about before a formal complaint is made, and which it may be helpful for your daughter to hear about.

Some of the things you have described (such as filming your daughter during class) are also things that the school could be keeping an eye out for and responding to when they occur, independently of your daughter feeling able to come forward.

I also wanted to second @Janine-RO's suggestion regarding having a look at the eSafety commission's website, including information on reporting the cyberbullying, as this is a crime.

Regarding your daughter not attending school, it is very understandable that she would be reluctant to attend if she is continuing to experience bullying. I can also understand why this would be concerning for you, given her age and the importance of her staying connected to education.

It’s important that your daughter feel included in any approach you take regarding her school attendance. It is more likely that this will be successful if she feels her concerns have been listened to and taken into account, and that she has been involved in identifying solutions.

It may be helpful to set aside some time to sit with your daughter and offer to problem-solve how to tackle this together (there’s a great guide to problem solving with a teen here: Some possible options may include steps that can be taken at the current school (for instance, she may feel more able to attend school if she can be moved to a different class), but it’s also important to consider options that may seem less practical to you (such as changing school) in the first stage of problem-solving, before narrowing things down by considering the advantages and disadvantages of each approach. By involving your daughter identifying options and letting her identify options which would help her feel safe, this increases the likelihood that she will be willing to give one of the options a try.

You mention this has had a big impact on her mood. If she would be willing to consider talking to someone, this could be a helpful way of receiving more emotional support. There may be a school counsellor she could talk to, but when there is this type of concern sometimes young people are more comfortable speaking to someone not connected with the school - other options are asking your GP for a referral to a local service, or contacting your local headspace centre.

If she’s not feeling ready to talk to anyone, then continuing to let her know that you care about her, and that you’re there to listen when she wants to talk can encourage her to reach out when she does feel ready.

Best wishes,


Linda is a psychologist experienced in working with people across the lifespan, including teenagers and their families, in a variety of settings, and is ReachOut's Clinical Lead.


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