This issue arose in March 2010 when a Victorian Supreme Court judge overruled a decision made by the Victim’s of Crime Assistance Tribunal by enabling the bullying victim in this case to be provided with compensation. It was previously thought that the victim could not be compensated due to the fact that her attackers were under 10 years old and were too young to commit an offence. This ruling in the Supreme Court provides criminal intent to a child primarily for the purpose to grant compensation to victims, rather than punishment.
This ruling changed the way school’s and parents view bullying and it truly indicates the severity of the crime. I think that victims of bullying in school should be provided with compensation for three main reasons, firstly because our schools are not doing enough to control and prevent bullying, secondly because bullying should be regarded as a crime and lastly the serious nature of the affects of bullying on victims.
Bullying may be classified as physical, verbal, psychological, social or sexual harassment. Though bullying is not classified as a crime in any Australian jurisdiction, its formal definition would appear to have elements in common with actions that are regarded as crimes
Compensation: refers to the provision of financial, counselling and other support services such as tutoring or music lesions for example to help lesson the affects of bullying to a victim.
Now onto my primary argument, our schools are not doing enough to control and prevent bullying from occurring. Bullying occurs everyday in the classroom and in the playground. Innocent children are faced with abuse and mistreatment every time they walk into the school gates and our schools are not doing enough to stop this from occurring. National data shows that about one in four school children in Australia are bullied, an increase from one in six in 1990. This is primarily because of the increase in technology causing cyber bullying, making a very difficult area of society to be controlled.
Whilst schools provide counselling services and disciplinary measures, they are not doing enough to reduce the problem of bullying within the school children’s lives. With a law against bullying schools will be shown the seriousness of this act and will lead to them taking more measures to prevent it from occurring. Victoria Police statistics reveal a 17 per cent increase in assaults at educational facilities from 2007-08 to 2008-09. This demonstrates the growing need for something to be done and for this issue to be addressed immediately. Additional measures, such as compensation payments, need to be taken to aid schools in fighting the battle against bullying as currently they are not succeeding.
Moving onto my second point, that bullying should be regarded as a crime. Not treating bullying as a crime allows children to get away with damaging innocent lives everyday. In the case that stirred this uproar, the Victorian Supreme Court judge whilst making a judgement stated that ‘it is not to the point to say … that a threat to kill by a 10-year-old child is more likely to be hollow than to be made with actual criminal intent. The evidence showed that K [the ringleader of the bullies] fully intended by her threats to put BVB [the victim] in fear of her life and she did so.’ The victim in this case was put in fear for her life repeatedly with threats to kill from the attacker. The victim was attacked with scissors and a broken bottle and frequently punched. How can we allow a child to be treated like this? How can the law not step in? Severe cases of bullying should be regarded as a crime and by doing so will create two main advantages. Firstly, schools will be demonstrated the seriousness of the act and secondly it will allow the offenders to be punished for their crimes.
All of the aspects from the incident spoken about previously contain criminal elements. This includes intimidation, threatening behaviour and assault. Thus exemplifying the criminality of the act of bullying.
Now the third and final point being the serious nature of the affects of bullying on victims. Bullying can have long lasting affects to the victim, being both physical and psychological. In 2009 the Launceston Examiner produced a detailed account of what bullying actually is and the serious effect it can have on both the victim and the bully. The main elements suggested in the account are that being bullied can damage lives. The long-term effects of on-going bullying can damage a person’s health and well-being in a way that lasts into adult life. It damages self-esteem, increases anxiety and can cause serious depression.
Bullies are more likely to continue with the aggressive behaviour and engage in delinquency and violence. Bullying can make children feel afraid, petrified, lonely, angry, distressed or physically ill. Children who are always “on guard” are always checking where the bully is and wondering when it will happen again. When children are “on alert” like this, they are less likely to concentrate. Children may begin to feel they deserve the treatment and become withdrawn, isolated, and feel less able to fit into their world.
In 2000 some Year 10 boarding students at Trinity Grammar in Western Australia assaulted a boy several times using an implement made in a woodwork class. Three students were expelled by the school and convicted of various offences as minors. Compensation payments to two victims of bullying at the school were more than $1 million.
We need to do something about this horrifying act. Providing victims of school place bullying with compensation will, whilst not completely healing all aspects of the offence, help to aid victims in their recovery, in the meantime demonstrating society’s sheer disapproval of the offence.
Many argue against compensation for various reasons. It is often stated that protections are already in place against school bullying. These protections referred to include Australian states and territory policies. In 2006 the Department of Education introduced new anti-bullying guidelines and policies for all Victorian government schools as well as other policies of this sort.
These aspects put in place are of value, however the problem still remains. As I said Victoria Police statistics reveal a 17 per cent increase in assaults at educational facilities from 2008 to 2009. Therefore, even after these measures had been introduced the issue of bullying remained and in fact the problem increased. Therefore, we should provide compensation to victims to ensure the severity of bullying is finally acknowledged.
Another argument that often arises is that parents should be held responsible for their children’s actions. Individuals argue that parents should be the one’s who prevent the bullying from occurring and stopping it after it has. It is the role of the school to notify the parents who then should take disciplinary action.
However, what many fail to realise is that not every bullying case will be detected and not every parent will even care enough to do something about it. It is simply not enough to overlook those who have been affected and harmed by this cruel behaviour just because they’re parents should be responsible. The victim of the abuse needs to be restored to the position they were in before the bullying occurred, and this can only be attempted to be achieved through the provision of compensation. Whilst parental responsibility is important, there must be other measures to prevent and aid the recovery of bullying for victims.
A last final point I’d like to make is that providing victims of bullying with compensation provides long term positive effects for the community. This is in the way that it addresses the root of the issue of aggression that stems from children. By demonstrating to bullies that this behaviour is not accepted and not tolerated by proving the compensation to those they have hurt, will lesson the likelihood of them continuing a life of crime.
This is the first recognition that bullying is in fact a crime and deserving of compensation. We must provide innocent bullying victims with compensation, for it to be finally considered as a crime, demonstrating the act’s severity both aiding to prevent future cases and lessening the affects for the future.
Written by Carmelene Greco Year 11 Student