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3. Responding to Cyberbullying

3.4 WORKING WITH THE BULLY AND APPLYING SANCTIONS

3.4.1Once the person responsible for cyberbullying has been identified, it is important that – as in other cases of bullying – sanctions are applied, and the range of sanctions include all those that are used in response to other forms of bullying.

3.4.2 Steps should be taken to change the attitude and behaviour of the bully, as well as ensuring access to any support that they may need.

3.4.3 When determining the appropriate response and proportionate sanctions, it is important to consider the ways in which cyberbullying incidents might differ in impact to other forms of bullying. The key considerations here may include attempts by the bully to disguise their identity; the public nature of posted material (and the extent of the humiliation); and the difficulty in controlling copies of the material (the difficulty in gaining closure over the event).

3.4.4 It should also be recognised, where induction and education activities are not in place, that some cyberbullying has been known to be unintentional or at least carried out with little awareness of the consequences. Determining appropriate sanctions for incidents will then require sensitivity to the impact on the person being bullied as well as any misunderstanding or thoughtlessness on the part of the cyberbully.

3.4.5 Consideration should also be given to the possibility that the cyberbullying could be a part of retaliation to previous bullying endured by the perpetrator.

Sanctions for bullying behaviour

3.4.6The aim of sanctions is to:

  • Help the person harmed to feel safe again and be assured that the bullying will stop.
  • Hold the perpetrator to account, getting them to recognise the harm caused and deter them from repeating the behaviour.
  • Demonstrate to the school community that cyberbullying is unacceptable and that the school has effective ways of dealing with it, so deterring others from behaving similarly.

3.4.7In addition to any sanctions that are in existing anti-bullying / behaviour policies, it is important to refer to any Acceptable Use Policy or agreement for internet and mobile use, and apply sanctions for breaches where applicable and practical.

3.4.8 Technology specific sanctions for pupils engaged in cyberbullying behaviour could include limiting internet access for a period of time or removing the right to bring a mobile phone into school (although issues of child safety should be considered in relation to the latter). For an example of how one school has technology specific sanctions, see item F in the ‘Resources’ section for a letter sent out to all the parents of one school outlining the sanctions that are in place.

3.4.9 For more information on disciplinary sanctions in general, see the School Discipline and Pupil Behaviour Policies guidance29.

Working with the bully

3.4.10It is important to ensure that the bully is helped to recognise the consequences of their actions, to help change their attitude, behaviour and the way they use technology.  Effective steps can be taken here that reflect work done with other bullying behaviour, including measures like restorative justice. These are discussed in section 4 of the overarching Safe to Learn guidance.