Cyberbullying Legal Framework

As outlined in the 2011 bullying advice from the Department of Education 'Head teachers have a specific statutory power to discipline pupils for poor behaviour outside the school premises. Section 89(5) of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 gives head teachers the power to regulate pupils conduct when they are not on school premises and are not under the lawful control or charge of a member of school staff'. The guidance states that 'pupils should feel that they can report bullying which may have occurred outside school including cyberbullying' and that 'where bullying outside school is reported to school staff, it should be investigated and acted on'.

Schools should therefore review the local circumstances and consider putting into place this power to intervene in out of school issues which have the potential to impact on the behaviour, discipline and welfare of the student body as a whole. Those working with parents and carers will need to make them aware of the school's powers in this area if relevant.

What needs to be included in an Anti-bullying Policy

Schools need to make it clear in their anti-bullying policy that they will be exercising the power to discipline pupils off the school site and to give examples when this would be likely to happen. This will ensure that both parents and carers, and young people, are fully aware of what behaviour is unacceptable and when schools are likely to intervene. It is therefore advisable to quote the section of the law as follows:

The Education and Inspections Act 2006 gives Head teachers the power 'to such an extent as is reasonable to regulate the behaviour of pupils when they are off the school site'.

For example, if member of the school community are involved in cyberbullying a fellow student or staff member, the school will exercise this power in order to safeguard the wellbeing of that student or staff member. Provide examples like:

  • Cyberbullying via Social Networking Sites, for example, malicious messages to someone, or the creation of a fake profile.
  • Filming on mobile phones and passing on inappropriate material or joining in with this behaviour. 

Other settings

Other youth settings may feel it appropriate to refer to schools if they become aware of bullying relating to members of the same school community. They should also have their own anti-bullying policy in place which makes it clear what behaviour is unacceptable and what action will be taken. This could include reporting the matter to the Police if appropriate.