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Active scribe
Posts: 9
Registered: ‎08-21-2017

School bullying Victoria - Taking it to the Ombudsman, share your stories here

[ Edited ]

My son was bullied during high school and it escalated to sexual harassment. What happened to my son was illegal and a crime, which, according to the Department of Educations Sexual Harassment Policy, was a reportable offence. The school did not report the offence to police and I have been through the Departments internal complaints procedure. The school at first denied any incident happened on school grounds, then admitted something had happened and my third and final response from the Assistant Deputy Secretary was an admission that the sexual harassment occurred, but that THEY didn't consider it a crime and they only dealt with the incident internally at the school. According to legal advice and police I consulted about the matter, it certainly was and is a crime, and the school failing to act, by not reporting the incident constitutes negligence. I am now compiling a complaint to the Victorian Ombudsman, I will be meeting with the Assistant Ombudsman to discuss my complaint. It will deal with schools not following policy, which, in the case of sexual harassment/ use of a carrier service to harass when perpetrated on school grounds, IS the responsibility of schools to report to police. If you have an incident of your child being bullied which is illegal and actionable and the school is not acting, I would love to hear from you. The more cases I can present to the Ombudsman will strengthen my case in making schools accountable for failing to act according to policy and procedure. It will help to affect change, currently, 1 in almost 4  Victorian school kids, from years 4 to 9 are bullied, this is unacceptable. And that schools are not taking action where policy demands, is negligence. We need to make them accountable. You can share your stories anonymously here on this thread, and I will present this thread to the Ombudsman along with my complaint. Look forward to hearing from you.

Community Manager
Posts: 700
Registered: ‎12-05-2016

Re: School bullying Victoria - Taking it to the Ombudsman, share your stories here

Hey @emma8

I'm so sorry to hear what happened to your son. Is he doing ok?

What a horrible experience for him to go through, is he getting any help around it?

 

It's great that you are being so proactive in seeking a resolution to this. 

I just need to let you know that this community is anonymous which means people can't share their contact details.

So when you say you would be sharing their stories with the Ombudsman, do you know what you need for them to be useable?

 

Active scribe
Posts: 9
Registered: ‎08-21-2017

Re: School bullying Victoria - Taking it to the Ombudsman, share your stories here

[ Edited ]

Hi, thank you for responding. My son suffered depression as a result, missed days of school and became disenfranchised due to the school essentially brushing the incident under the carpet, and most recently, they denied it even happened! He was an intelligent, well behaved student throughout his school years, not as much as a detention, he was even elected as student leader one year, and the school completely failed him regarding the bullying. He didn't complete high school, he ended up feeling like he didn't belong there. It's an utter travesty. I've supported him emotionally throughout, he's not big on counsellors, he has just started a TAFE course and is slowly regaining his confidence. Thank you for your concern. I'm not sure how to do this, but parents in Victoria have a great opportunity to forward their experiences, particularly relating to schools not reporting criminal bullying offences. I have had this matter escalated to the Assistant Ombudsman. I will be meeting with both the Assistant AND Deputy Ombudsman. Maybe you or other members might have some ideas how to get these stories heard. Maybe a petition can also be started. Schools not reporting criminal bullying are also liable for negligence, parents CAN make negligence claims against schools failure to act. If there are sufficient parents with such complaints, perhaps a class action can be taken against the Department of Education. I'm open to brainstorming ideas with other parents. I just really want to make the absolute most of my meeting with the Ombudsman, I want both the parents and children to finally be heard. And I'm hoping we can make schools enforce policy and procedure and that parents and students are made aware of the rights they have and know how to make schools responsible for adhering to those rights. Any advice you or other members may have would be appreciated. Let's make this a team effort!

Active scribe
Posts: 9
Registered: ‎08-21-2017

Re: School bullying Victoria - Taking it to the Ombudsman, share your stories here

My emphasis will be, that, schools are NOT acting according to the law, they consider that they are a law unto themselves. This could be a factor in why there is a proliferation of bullying in schools. Schools, and clearly coming from directives above, from the Department of Education itself, are dealing with incidents internally that policy requires them to report to police, and incidents which, according to law, are criminal in nature. They do NOT have the right to determine what is considered a criminal offence, that is for the police to investigate and decide. I will be pushing that angle with the Ombudsman, the school is not the judge and jury in such cases, any child over the age of 10 is criminally liable for perpetrating bullying. And the school owes a DUTY OF CARE to students, it is their responsibility to act on behalf of the bullied student where policy provides a provision to ACT. It should never be a parents responsibilty to pursue legal action against a bully, incidents which occur on school grounds. The school is responsible for doing that. In my sons case, the school did not even alert me to the incident, as they are meant to do under policy. It was weeks later that I stumbled upon what happened to my son, he was too embarrassed to tell me. How many more incidents do they not tell parents of, and, as they deal with these incidents ' internally', these incidents are essentially swept under the carpet. If I had not discovered what had happened to my son, I would never have known and he would have continued to suffer in silence. This is unconscionable. I will also be pushing that my sons former school be audited, and its records sifted through for incidents they deemed acceptable to deal with internally, which really is a euphemism for ' sweeping it under the rug'. 

Active scribe
Posts: 9
Registered: ‎08-21-2017

Re: School bullying Victoria - Taking it to the Ombudsman, share your stories here

I was given legal advice that I can put in a negligence claim against the school. I have contacted no win no fee lawyers previously, who would be willing to take on such cases. I was waiting until the Department of Educations investigation was completed, which it was last month, hence why I am now able to take it to the Ombudsman. It may be likely that the Ombudsman can only deal with individual cases, so I encourage parents to start the complaints process ASAP. Make sure ALL correspondence with the school and Department of Education is in WRITING, I can't stress that more. The Departments initial investigator tried to fob me off with a phone response, I demanded a written response. Now that I have all the responses, the discrepancies can be proven. I implore parents, take your children to a GP immediately after a bullying incident, for cases of negligence, you will need to have your child describe the bullying and affects on them. Get them in to see a counsellor. Headspace offers free counselling. There is also a 6 year statute of limitations on negligence claims. I will be contacting a no win no fee lawyer today, I will be discussing the possibility of a class action suit against the Department of Education. If parents need any advice on how to start the complaints process, I can help. The more complaints made where it's established that the Department of Education is acting negligently, the more likely we have a legal case against them. Maybe for the purposes of my Ombudsmans appointment, I can start an online petition to illustrate the severity of bullying and the amount of students affected. I would need help getting it out there, would I be able to post a link to it here so that it can be widely shared? 

Parent Peer Supporter
Posts: 153
Registered: ‎10-27-2016

Re: School bullying Victoria - Taking it to the Ombudsman, share your stories here

Hi Emma, I'm so sorry you've all been going through this terrible time. How awful for you all! Smiley Sad  Your advice re; Headspace etc could be very helpful for someone going through the same situation. Thank you. It will be tricky to get stories from here that could help you because of the anonymity but I wish you the very best of luck & I'll be keeping an eye on this post to see if there's any way I can help.  

Active scribe
Posts: 9
Registered: ‎08-21-2017

Re: School bullying Victoria - Taking it to the Ombudsman, share your stories here

Thank you, it is forgotten that bullying affects the entire family, the affects on parents is ignored. Especially when all our attempts to make schools act falls on deaf ears. Schools should be ASHAMED of themselves. In my case, the school didn't even notify me of the incident, and then they dealt with it internally, denying me the right to decide what action they should take. They consider that they are a law unto themselves, as I've stated above. During the Departments investigation, the school DENIED anything happened on school grounds, when they well and truly know it did. There were independent witnesses and the child was suspended for a day. I had to escalate the matter until they finally admitted the incident. Why all the dishonesty? And, according to the Department of Education, they dealt with it internally as THEY didn't consider it a criminal offence. Well, all legal advice and police instructions to me begs to differ. What do they think they are, above the law? This should concern parents, and I'm hoping my bringing my case to the Ombudsman will alert them to this heinous habit of schools dealing with incidents internally, and put into place recommendations that schools be transparent when it comes to bullying occurring under their watch. As it stands, the fact and figures on bullying are not accurate due to this practice of schools dealing with it internally. How many more kids are suffering in silence due to it? Something needs to be done, and I'm hoping I can give those invisible students a voice and expose the real figures of bullying.

Community Manager
Posts: 67
Registered: ‎04-28-2016

Re: School bullying Victoria - Taking it to the Ombudsman, share your stories here

Hi there @emma8 i am sure there are many people out there who would benefit from a short guide about the "do's and don'ts" of dealing with an issue like this at a school.

 

It can get very complicated very quickly and so i was wondering if you could make a new topic to help parents who might experience something similar get a better understanding of their rights and those of their childs, and what services and supports are out there to get more advice. Would you be interested in helping out with this? 

Active scribe
Posts: 9
Registered: ‎08-21-2017

Re: School bullying Victoria - Taking it to the Ombudsman, share your stories here

Hi Ben, yes, I would definitely love to help with that, I am a great resource for parents and students struggling with this issue. It can get complicated, which is why I will be bringing that to the attention of the Ombudsman, they can make recommendations for schools to implement changes, which, in this case would be to uncomplicate it. I have learnt about policy and procedures, and how, when not followed by schools, complicates matters. I also have learnt about their legal obligations to students, and when they are required to act and report incidences to police. Parents should not have to be tasked with doing that, it is the schools duty of care for which they are liable. This habit of them dealing with incidences internally, also needs to be challenged, they should be required to be transparent and report to parents immediately when their child is bullied at school. It should never get this far to now becoming an issue of negligence. I don't want any other parent to navigate this alone, they are not alone. I hope that can bring some comfort to parents and students going through this presently, that I am fighting for them as a parent of a bullied child. It has certainly been difficult doing this on my own, but I have learnt so much and I would love to share that with others, to make their road a little smoother. 

Community Manager
Posts: 67
Registered: ‎04-28-2016

Re: School bullying Victoria - Taking it to the Ombudsman, share your stories here

Great, well if you'd like to make a new topic, then go for it!

 

For me the goal of a new thread would be to give parents having trouble with bullying or other issues in schools the information and support they need to get started. What do you think? 

 

Here's some ingredients that help threads work well in the type of community we have, you might find you're thinking along the same lines already: 

 

  • These threads are here for a long time so think in time-frames of 5 years or longer. Someone has to be able to read the thread and get what they need- even if you've moved on to bigger and better things.
  • We can't give legal advice, so if there's something legal- we should help the person find services they can contact rather than digging into the issue toooo much.
  • Keep it simple, when we're stressed (and naturally this is stressful) it's hard to process lots of information, so perhaps give your readers the top 5 things needs to know if they're having trouble with their school would be enough, then we can all jump on and help them out Smiley Happy 
  • Engage the community and share the load: we're a big group of parents that care about our kids,so if we make a thread we should ask a question or two to help parents feel they can get involved, either by sharing their own story, or offering ideas about what helped them. 

Let me know what you reckon? 

 

And now that i have made that gigantic post.... how're you doing today?