Experts warn of school tablet cyber-bully liability
Two legal experts from the University of Canberra have warned against schools’ complacency on cyber-bullying, saying a school could be sued in some circumstances.
The academics put the warning out to ACT schools in particular, claiming that wireless devices being rolled out in many schools would allow bullies to use school equipment to harass their victims. University of Canberra legal experts Amy Dwyer and Patricia Easteal said rates of bullying in Australian schools are among the world's highest, affecting around half of all students.
Ms Dwyer and Ms Easteal investigated the idea that technology could expose schools to new challenges in protecting pupils in their recently-published paper ‘Cyber Bullying in Australian Schools: The question of negligence and liability’. They have warned that school could be held responsible if bullying occurred on school grounds, during school hours or using school-owned technology.
“Many schools are now providing a new level of technological learning environment; the new Harrison School in Gungahlin provides an 'iPad-ready playground' for its students, with wireless internet covering the school grounds,” they wrote, “if one student bullies another at recess or lunch using the school-owned server, it is possible the school will be held responsible for that cyber bullying given its need to supervise and protect - its duty of care.”
Schools with such systems in place often require participants and their parents to sign a code of practice, including stipulations not to use devices to upset others, the legal experts say it is of paramount importance that schools enforce the code.
Anyone who is or knows of a victim of cyber-bullying can get help from beyondblue.org.au or call Lifeline on 131 114.