Bullying at school

For free and confidential legal advice about this topic, please contact us here.

Bullying is never ok. At school you have the right to feel safe and protected. If you can’t talk to someone face to face about what is going on, we encourage you to call the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. They provide free phone counselling 24 hours a day/7 days a week.  Sometimes there can be a delay in getting through, so we encourage you to keep trying. You can also chat online with someone during certain hours here.

Navigate this page

What is bullying?

Bullying is repeated behaviour that:

  • is meant to be hurtful;
  • targets a certain person or group of people;
  • harms, distresses and cause fear to the person being bullied.

Bullying includes:

  • Verbal insults like teasing, name-calling, harassing
  • Physical behaviour like hitting, kicking, pushing
  • “mucking about” that goes too far
  • Cyber-bullying like offensive SMS and emails, on Facebook or in chat rooms
  • Anti-social behaviour like exclusion, gossip, spreading rumours or offensive gestures

Where can it happen?

Bullying can happen anywhere like at school, in parks, on your way to school or in other places used by the school. It can even happen in places away from school and outside of school hours, like in cyberspace, via SMS, Facebook or email.  

Is bullying illegal?

Bullying can be illegal. It is a crime if someone:

  • is physically violent towards you,
  • threatens you,
  • stalks you (stalking includes following, watching, or contacting you repeatedly in a way that scares you); or
  • damages or steals your things.

It is also against the law (but not a crime) if someone harasses you because of your:

    • race,
    • religious beliefs,
    • sexual orientation or
    • disability

You can make a complaint about this if you feel that you have been harassed at school because of this. You can get help here.

It becomes cyber-bullying if they use their mobile or the internet to do any of these to you. It is also a crime to cyber-bully someone. Visit our page on Cyber-bullying for more information: https://yla.org.au/tas_law/topics/bullying/cyber-bullying.

What do schools have to do about bullying

All schools in Tasmania are required to have anti-bullying plans in place to deal with bullying and cyber-bullying. You can ask your school about their anti-bullying plan and see what the school is doing to stop bullying from happening.

Your school has to make sure that students are not bullied or harassed and that it is a safe place for you to be. Your school should teach students about bullying and create a climate where it is not attempted or tolerated. It should have a clear procedure for students to report bullying, and provide support for students who have been affected by bullying. If you are being bullied at school or outside school, tell someone about what is happening to you. Someone at your school must quickly respond to the situation.

I’m being bullied at school. What can I do about it?

Bullying is not OK and you don’t have to put up with it. You have the right to feel safe. You may be able to solve the problem by just ignoring the bully. But if you feel threatened, it is important that you tell someone what is happening.

Will telling someone help?

Telling someone that you are being bullied is important. It can make you feel better because you don’t have to deal with the problem on your own. Telling somebody, even just your friends, can make you feel supported. It shares the problem, and allows you to get advice and help to stop the bullying.

Who can I tell?

  • Tell your friends – they can help you tell a teacher or your parents or just make you feel better
  • Tell your parents – tell them the who, what, when and where of what’s been happening.
  • Tell your school – we explain more about how to do this below
  • Tell your teachers or the Principal – tell them the who, what, when and where
  • Call KidsHelpline on 1800 55 1800 if you can’t talk to someone face to face. They provide free phone counselling 24 hours a day/7 days a week.  Sometimes there can be a delay in getting through, so we encourage you to keep trying. It’s free from all mobile phones, it doesn’t matter which provider you are with.  
  • Kids Helpline online chat: You can also chat online with someone during certain hours at http://www.kidshelp.com.au/.  
  • You can get help here and we can give you some advice.

Report bullying to the school

If you’re being bullied at school, you can:

1. Meet with the Principal

The school has a legal duty to do something about the bullying if it is happening at school. If telling someone is not enough to stop the bully’s behaviour, you can make a complaint to the school by meeting with the Principal. Ask your parents or someone you trust to come with you, especially if you are scared or worried about it.

2. Make a complaint to the Department of Education

If you have spoken to the Principal and you are not happy with their response, you can make a complaint to the Operations Manager of the Learning Service in charge of your school. You can find which Manager looks after your school by calling 1800 816 057 or by emailing [email protected].





When making a complaint you will have to provide detailed information about the incidents and show why you think your school has failed to do to make the bullying stop. Your school’s anti-bullying plan may be a useful place for you to start in looking at what your school should do to address bullying.

Can I call the police?

If someone has been violent towards you or has threatened to be violent, you can report this to the police. It is illegal for the bully to harass you and if your bully is over 10 years old, they could be charged with criminal offences.

If you have been threatened or physically harmed, you can this reported to the police.

  • If the bully has physically harmed you, maximum penalty is 2 years in goal
  • If the bully has made threats to physically harm you, maximum penalty is 2 years in goal
  • If the bully has sexually or indecently assaulted you, maximum penalty is 21 years in goal

If your things have been damaged or stolen, you can also report to the police.  

  • If the bully took away your things against your will, maximum penalty is 21 years in goal
  • If the bully demands things from you so that they can take it away, maximum penalty is 21 years in goal
  • If the bully damages your things, maximum penalty is 2 years in goal.

Generally for people under 18, the police will give a warning or caution for their bad behaviour and they won’t go to jail.

Seeking protection

Courts can also make special “Restraint Order” to protect you from people who are stalking or bullying you. A court can even order someone not to contact you (including by phone or on the internet). The court can sometimes be reluctant to make these kinds of orders when the people involved go to the same school, so this is probably a last resort option.

You have to be 18 to apply for a Restraining Order on your own.  But if you’re under 18 you can get a police officer or a parent/guardian to apply for a Restraint Order on your behalf.  You can find some information on how to make an application at this link: https://www.magistratescourt.tas.gov.au/going_to_court/restraint_orders/information_for_applicants

Taking legal action

In some instances you and your parents can take legal action against the bullies or the school. This is because the school has a “duty of care” to ensure the safety of all its students. In simple terms, this means that the school must ensure that the students are safe from potential harm caused by bullying. But before your parents think about legal action, it is important that they speak to your school first and see if they can sort of the problem at that level.   

Taking legal action is complicated and expensive, and you have to be able to show that the bullying must have caused very serious emotional harm.  

If you have a question about bullying that we haven’t answered here, you can get help here.

Got a question you can't get answered?

If you have a problem or a question, you can send it to us today and we can provide you with free advice, information and referrals to help solve your problem. Just click on the button below.

Get help now

Select Your State or Territory

The law is different in each state and territory. Please select your state or territory to view legal information that applies to you.