Lawyer Jed McNamara
Lawyer Jed McNamara

Gympie school and cyber bullies put on notice

GYMPIE lawyer Jed McNamara says parents and children need to know their legal rights if they are being bullied at school or online.

The recent school yard attack in on a 13-year-old Gympie schoolgirl had raised concerns over our children's legal rights in the face of bullies, Mr McNamara said.

"But do Queensland's schools have a legal responsibility to safeguard the students in their care? And what can you do when the assault on your child follows them home via the cyber world?”

Mr McNamara, a lawyer with Maurice Blackburn, said the Queensland Government had recently introduced the Code of School Behaviour - an anti-bullying policy for all public schools. Non-government schools are expected to have their own behavioural frameworks in place.

"Legally these policies aren't enough, in some instances, to prevent a school being held liable for the emotional harm caused by this type of harassment.

"Ultimately, schools owe a duty of care to their students.

"Where there has been a breach of that obligation resulting in a psychological injury being suffered, the school will be held liable. But the threat of legal action shouldn't be the main driver of action to stamp out unwanted behaviours. Educational institutions need to take preventative action to stop bullying from occurring in the first place.

"As a father to teenagers I am keenly aware that the bullying often continues long after the final bell has sounded for the day.

"Cyber-bullying has an equally damaging effect on a young person's life.

"But did you know that while the law doesn't specify particular cyber-bullying offences, the kind of conduct commonly seen in this form of bullying is considered a crime under several criminal laws, some of which may include jail time.

"If your child finds themselves the subject of cyber-bullying there are some ways they can protect themselves, including:

Report unwanted or offensive comments and behaviour to their social media carriers. They can then act on and delete the negative material and potentially deactivate the bully's account.

Modify privacy and security settings to only allow family and friends to see their account.

Document the evidence - save screen shots or keep a hard copy of the offensive posts.

Block the offending person - either on social media or on the phone/devices.

Report bullying to the police. Where cyber-bullying involves discriminatory comments or unwelcome sexual advances a complaint can also be made to the Anti-Discrimination Commission.

Apply for a protection order.

"In my line of work I often see people who have endured significant mental injuries as a result of being bullied. Bullying needs to be seen for what it is - an unacceptable, anti-social behaviour which can damage a person for their rest of their lives.”

Mr McNamara recently opened a visiting office in Mary St.

Gympie Times


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