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Why bullying can be costly

In 2003 three pupils received punitive sentences from a criminal court for gross bullying. While criminal cases are rare, it is common for parents and pupils to seek damages from the school or LEA for alleged negligence in combating bullying.

In one case bullying was defined as "conduct intended to cause hurt, either physical or psychological, which is unprovoked and which continues over a long time". The court affirmed that the school's duty did not extend to bullying outside the school. It was "sufficient to prevent any bullying from spilling over into the school".

In the second case the school was criticised for its institutional attitude to bullying and lack of positive procedures. Staff did not take bullying seriously, did not investigate allegations speedily enough, and did not keep adequate records of meetings. Records must be kept until the pupil is at least 21; some LEAs recommend even longer.

Schools are legally required to have anti-bullying policies. These must be communicated to staff, pupils and parents and properly implemented. Staff should be properly trained. Guidance for schools can be found in Bullying - Don't Suffer in Silence - an Anti-Bullying Pack for Schools (642000) from the Department for Education and Skills References: School Standards and Framework Act 1999; Circular 1019; Bradford-Smart v West Sussex Council 2000; C v Trafford Borough Council 2000

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