Bullying, harassment and/or violence at school 

What can the Human Rights Commission do about bullying, harassment and/or violence in schools?

Bullying, harassment and/or violence at school are serious problems. They can lead to negative physical, emotional and social impacts on young people. They affect the rights of young people to be safe and free from violence. Experiencing bullying, harassment can also interfere with young people’s right to education.

If your child has been subjected to an incident of bullying, harassment and/or at school, it is important to talk about it with your child. It is also important to discuss it with your child’s teacher or the school principal. Schools must take these kinds of incidents seriously and respond appropriately. If you are not happy with the school’s response, you can write to the school’s Board of Trustees.  All schools are required by legislation to provide a safe and bullying-free learning environment for students. For ongoing concerns, you can also approach the Ministry of Education, the Education Review Office or the Ombudsman.

You can seek help from the Human Rights Commission by enquiring or complaining about a situation of bullying, harassment and/or violence at school. The Commission can help in three ways:

  • By getting involved in addressing the situation directly, if the bullying or harassment is linked to one of the grounds of discrimination in the Human Rights Act (such as someone’s sex, race, sexual orientation or disability – all the grounds are here
  • By providing advice on the wider human rights aspects of a situation, depending on the facts
  • By putting you in touch with organisations with specific responsibilities for dealing with complaints about bullying at school, so you can get the right support and help for the situation you are dealing with.

The Commission has published an analysis of the human rights issues in situations of school bullying, harassment and/or violence, to help make schools safer for everyone: School violence, bullying and abuse: A human rights analysis.

The Commission is involved in a bullying prevention group along with a number of other organisations and agencies (such as the Ministry of Education, the Secondary Principals Association of New Zealand, the New Zealand School Trustees Association, the Ministry of Social Development, New Zealand Police, Netsafe). Through this group, the Commission is working to highlight what schools and communities can do about bullying and harassment.

The group has developed a trial Guide for schools, on preventing and responding to bullying. You can read the Guide here. The Guide includes links to further information which will be helpful for young people, parents, whānau and community.

The Online safety Advisory Group of which the Commission is a member, has also developed a guide for schools on safe and responsible use of digital technology in schools. Digital Technology Safe and responsible Use in Schools provides specific advice to schools on how to manage digital technology under the legislation relating to searches and confiscation of property. It is a companion to the Guidelines for the Surrender and Retention of Property and Searches released by the Ministry of Education in January 2014. It also provides general advice for schools about preventing incidents by promoting safe and responsible use of digital technology.

Where else can young people, parents and schools get support?

There are lots more anti-bullying resources available online, which may be useful for children, parents and schools in situations where bullying, harassment or violence has occurred. These include:

There are also a number of free phone support numbers that young people and parents can call for more information and help: