Bullying and victimisation in schools: a restorative justice approach


Bullying at school causes enormous stress for many children and their families, and has long-term effects. School bullying has been identified as a risk factor associated with antisocial and criminal behaviour. Bullies are more likely to drop out of school and to engage in delinquent and criminal behaviour. The victims are more likely to have higher levels of stress, anxiety, depression and illness, and an increased tendency to suicide.

This paper reports on a restorative justice program that was run in a primary school in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), but whose lessons have wider application.

Early intervention has been advocated as the most appropriate way to prevent bullying. This paper outlines a framework based on restorative justice principles aimed at bringing about behavioural change for the individual while keeping schools and communities safe. The aim of restorative programs is to reintegrate those affected by wrongdoing back into the community as resilient and responsible members. Restorative justice is a form of conflict resolution and seeks to make it clear to the offender that the behaviour is not condoned, at the same time as being supportive and respectful of the individual.

The paper highlights the importance of schools as institutions that can foster care and respect and provide opportunities to participate in processes that allow for differences to be worked through constructively. It recommends that schools be resourced and supported to address bullying because of the debilitating effect of this problem.

This paper is taken from the report of research undertaken with the assistance of a grant from the Criminology Research Council.