Bullying, harassment, discrimination and violence all create or contribute to negative social environments. All school communities should have clear definitions outlined in their school policies and procedures for bullying, harassment, discrimination and violence. The following definitions contain the key characteristics and have been taken from the Safe Schools Hub .

Bullying (click to expand)

Bullying is an ongoing misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that causes physical and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power over one or more persons. Bullying can happen in person or online, and it can be obvious (overt) or hidden (covert).

Bullying of any form or for any reason can have long-term effects on those involved, including bystanders.

Single incidents and conflict or fights between equals, whether in person or online, are not defined as bullying. However, these conflicts still need to be addressed and resolved.

Behaviours that do not constitute bullying include:

  • mutual arguments and disagreements (where there is no power imbalance)
  • not liking someone or a single act of social rejection
  • one-off acts of meanness or spite
  • isolated incidents of aggression, intimidation or violence.

Online bullying (sometimes referred to as cyberbullying) is bullying carried out through the internet or mobile devices.

Not all online issues are bullying. Learn more about cybersafety issues, including online bullying.

  • send insulting or threatening text messages
  • post someone's personal or embarrassing information online
  • create hate sites or start social exclusion campaigns on social networking sites.

Harassment (click to expand)

Harassment is behaviour that targets an individual or group due to their:

  • identity, race, culture or ethnic origin
  • religion
  • physical characteristics
  • gender
  • sexual orientation
  • marital, parenting or economic status
  • age
  • ability or disability.

It offends, humiliates, intimidates or creates a hostile environment.

It may be:

  • an ongoing pattern of behaviour or a single act
  • directed randomly or towards the same person(s)
  • intentional or unintentional.

Examples of harassment: (click to expand)

Some examples of harassment include where students:

  • ridicule someone who doesn't speak English
  • tease someone who wears different clothes due to religion/beliefs
  • make suggestive comments or insults based on sex
  • make fun of someone who needs a wheelchair or walking frame for mobility
  • put down someone who is obese or very thin
  • tell offensive jokes deliberately to put down a particular societal group.

Discrimination (click to expand)

Discrimination occurs when people are treated less favourably than others because of their:

  • identity, race, culture or ethnic origin
  • religion
  • physical characteristics
  • gender
  • sexual orientation
  • marital, parenting or economic status
  • age
  • ability or disability.

Examples of discrimination: (click to expand)

Some examples of discrimination include where students:

  • exclude children of a different culture from a friendship group
  • don't let children of a different race sit near them at lunch
  • refuse to include a student with a disability in their game.

Discrimination interferes with the legal right of all people to be treated fairly and have the same opportunities as everyone else.

Violence (click to expand)

Violence is the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against another person(s) that results in psychological harm, injury or in some cases death. It may involve provoked or unprovoked acts and can be a single incident, a random act or can occur over time.

Types of violence: (click to expand)

Violence can fall into three basic categories:

  • self-directed violence (e.g. self abuse and suicide)
  • collective violence (e.g. social and political violence including war and terrorism)
  • interpersonal violence (e.g. family and intimate partner violence, community violence involving an acquaintance or stranger).

Some examples of violence a teacher may observe include:

  • throwing items
  • pushing
  • grabbing
  • kicking
  • biting
  • hitting with fists
  • using a sharp instrument
  • hitting with an object
  • pulling hair.

It is important to remember that bullying and violence are not the same issue. Violence is often an outcome and is certainly an arm of bullying. If bullying can be addressed in its earlier stages then many instances of violence could be prevented. It is important that bullying and violence are treated as separate issues with their own responses, but both issues are as important as each other and both can have a devastating effect on young people.