School “safe telling” and reporting policies/processes

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Promoting a “safe telling” environment within a school

A “safe telling” culture encourages all students to report bullying, whether they are the target, the initiator or the bystander. A safe telling culture reassures students they have done the right thing whenever they report bullying.

Ways to promote a safe telling culture include:

  • work with school students and parents/whānau to:
    • establish a confidential reporting system
    • develop and implement a two-way communication between home and school to share information about bullying
    • develop processes to ensure all students know that if they do speak up, they will be listened to
  • provide opportunities for all staff to discuss the development and implementation of bullying incident reporting systems so that all staff respond consistently to reports of bullying.

Reporting and documenting bullying incidents

Clear, consistent processes for investigating, resolving and recording bullying incidents are important when bullying happens. Processes should be regularly promoted and include steps for acknowledging, investigating and following up on reported bullying incidents. Confidentiality is an important consideration when responding to reported incidents of bullying.

Focusing on bullying, yet seeing an increase in reported incidents?

Knowing about bullying that may be happening in your school is always better than not knowing about it. An increase in reports of bullying may be a positive sign, not a negative one:

  • your students may be better at identifying bullying, knowing that it’s wrong, and that they should report it
  • your students may have more confidence that if they report bullying, something will be done about it
  • bystanders may feel safer to report bullying, understanding that it is not ‘narking’
  • there may be a more accurate picture emerging of what’s happening at your school
  • students may be recognising any negative interaction between students as bullying.

James Dillon, principal and author of ‘No Place for Bullying’ (external link) considers an increase of bullying reports from students as a positive sign. “I viewed bullying complaints that turned out not to be bullying as a teachable moment to explain the difference between bullying and other inappropriate behaviour. It was better to have a bullying complaint turn out to be a non-bullying incident than to have no complaints and mistakenly think that all was well.”

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