Working with parents, whānau and the community

It’s important to communicate and closely work with parents, carers and whānau.

On this page:

Parents, carers and whānau need to be fully informed, consulted often, and recognised as equal partners in the bullying prevention process. Communicating with parents, carers and whānau helps life at home to reinforce the actions of the school, and helps parents and carers develop their own skills and attitudes.

Providing advice to parents and whānau

Parents, carers and whānau expect schools to provide information and advice about bullying.

Information for parents and caregivers who suspect that a child is a target of bullying could include:

  • staying calm
  • reassuring the child that they have done the right thing in talking about it, that the bullying is not their fault, and that the parents/caregivers will work with the school to make things better
  • working out how to deal with the situation together
  • agreeing on a plan of support for the child
  • regularly checking in with the child to see how they are doing.

Advice to parents and whānau who suspect their child is a target of cyberbullying could include:

  • asking questions about how digital technology is being used
  • taking an active approach to discussing digital issues with their child
  • saving all bullying messages and images for use in reporting the bullying to the school or the police
  • contacting the police if the cyberbullying involves physical threats or could put the child in danger
  • lodging a complaint with the mobile phone or social networking site provider
  • contacting NetSafe(external link).

Responding to student, parent and whānau reports of bullying

The Office of the Children's Commissioner has recommended that parents and students reporting bullying behaviour can expect:

  • to be heard, receive a sensitive response and not have their their concerns or worries dismissed
  • to have the incident investigated and responded to
  • to be protected from negative consequences of their reporting
  • that the school will intervene and support initiators, targets and bystanders that are involved in the bullying behaviour
  • help from external agencies.

Working with parents and whānau whose child is initiating bullying behaviour

Parents, whānau and the school need to work together to develop a range of supports for a student who is initiating bullying behaviour.

Advice to parents and whānau who suspect their child is bullying others could include:

  • talking to the child to get the full story and their point of view
  • being clear about what is and is not acceptable behaviour at school and at home
  • explaining how bullying affects the targets, bystanders and the school environment
  • discussing better ways to handle situations where the child may act aggressively
  • regularly checking in with the child to see how they are doing
  • recognising and praising appropriate behaviour
  • talking to the school and the child's teacher about how they can help.

Managing complaints

Managing complaints appropriately, fairly and consistently is an important part of school operations. Schools need to have a policy and process in place to manage all complaints, including those about bullying. Both the policy and process should be well publicised and include steps for acknowledging, investigating and following up on complaints. Confidentiality is an important consideration when managing complaints.

Organisations like the Office of the Ombudsman, the Human Rights Commission, the Education Review Office and the New Zealand School Trustees Association provide information for Boards of Trustees about good practice for managing complaints. The Human Rights Commission offers an Enquiries and Complaints Service (external link)(including disputes resolution), which is based on mediation.

If school bullying occurs on any of the grounds of unlawful discrimination under the Human Rights Act 1993 (for example race, sexual orientation or disability), the Human Rights Commission may progress a complaint of unlawful discrimination. The Human Rights Commission may also progress a complaint if it is alleged that a school has responded inadequately to a bullying complaint based on any grounds of unlawful discrimination.

The Ministry of Education's Good Practice Guildelines on stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions(external link) provides information on acknowledging, investigating and following up on complaints.

More information: 

NZEI - Dealing with Complaints from Parents and/or School Communities(external link)

Ombudsman - Good complaints handling by school boards of trustees(external link)



Tackling Bullying - A guide for parents and whānau

This guide will help parents, whānau and schools to work together to tackle bullying behaviour. It includes information about bullying and what parents and whānau can do. There are tips for parents...