Managing bullying incidents

Universal efforts to improve the social skills, attitudes and behaviour of all students can be implemented through curricula and pedagogical approaches involving the teaching of social skills and groupings encouraging positive interactions between students, inclusiveness and acceptance.

These approaches include a heightened focus on relationships, engagement and positive classroom and behaviour management.  Their intention is to produce school cultures where bullying is less likely to thrive.

Targeted approaches focus specifically on students who are involved in bullying incidents, either as perpetrator or target, giving specialised treatment (see below).

The approaches are complementary: universal approaches when consistently and persistently applied tend to lead to fewer cases of bullying requiring specialised intervention.

Offline bullying incidents

Management of bullying incidents will depend on the individual school's approaches to student behaviour. The most effective management methods are non-hostile and non-punitive, and the most useful approach to student discipline is as a learning tool rather than as a punitive device. Naturally very serious incidents will invoke a response consistent with department, jurisdictional or board requirements.

Key steps

  • All teachers need the skills to recognise and respond to bullying situations and teachers who do not feel confident they have the skills to tackle a bullying situation will require professional learning activities
  • Ensure that policies require that all teachers accept they are responsible for bullying in the school even if they do not teach or are directly responsible for the students involved
  • Ensure all teachers are familiar with the school's commonly accepted definition of bullying
  • The approach used by teachers will depend on the policies and implementation guidelines of their particular school. Teachers should be familiar with particular approaches, such as:
  • The traditional disciplinary approach
  • Strengthening the target of bullying
  • Mediation
  • Restorative Justice
  • The Support Group Method
  • The Method of Shared Concern (for a comprehensive treatment of each method, see Dr Ken Rigby's excellent book Bullying Interventions in Schools six basic approaches , ACER press 2010).


  • Provide secure opportunities for students to disclose bullying incidents
  • Ensure these are regularly monitored (daily)
  • Ensure responses are provided by a staff member who has appropriate training, and who is in a position to respond to the situation effectively
  • Students need to know they will be listened to in a supportive way (some schools allow students to identify particular teachers to whom they are prepared to talk).

Online bullying incidents

The Department of Education, Employment and Early Childhood Development has useful resources which lay out the issues very clearly and give a step-by-step process to follow in the case of Online Incidents of Inappropriate Behaviour Affecting Students and also a step-by-step guide: removing inappropriate content from websites or social media sites.

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