Give schools cyber-bully stick: committee

Summary:A joint select committee on cybersecurity has recommended that the auditor-general look to the law to give schools greater powers to deal with cyber-bullying.

A joint select committee on cybersecurity has recommended that the auditor-general look to the law to give schools greater powers to deal with cyber-bullying.

(Untitled image by John Steven Fernandez, CC2.0)

The interim report by the Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety, titled "Cyber-Safety and the Young", agreed that while schools have a duty of care to create a safe online environment for students and staff during school hours, greater clarity is needed on how responsible schools are for student behaviour outside of these times.

It discussed changes to legislation in South Australia, which gives principals the authority to take action at the time of, or after, an act of bullying, and suspend or expel students.

With that state's legislation deemed to be working productively, NSW also changing its legislation and authorities in other states expressing frustration at the lack of equivalent legislation, the committee recommended that the auditor-general work with states and territories to develop similar legislation nationally.

However, in its submission, the NSW Secondary Principal's Council stated that it was not appropriate for schools to spend significant resources to deal with out-of-hours student-to-student or family conflict.

The Federation of Parents and Citizens' Association of NSW said that more than just changing the law needs to be done, stating in its submission that "some schools have reportedly buried their heads in the sand with regards to the issues around online bullying and its repercussions. They have suggested that, as the incident didn't happen at school, the school is not accountable, and shouldn't get involved."

While the committee discussed that it would be obligatory to ensure that the necessary resources are made available to schools to enforce legislation changes, this was not a formal part of its recommendation.

The legislation is likely to rely heavily on the committee's additional recommendation for the minister for broadband, communications and the digital economy, the Consultative Working Group on Cybersafety and the Youth Advisory Group to provide a clear definition of cyber-bullying for all government departments.

Topics: Legal

About

A Sydney, Australia-based journalist, Michael Lee covers a gamut of news in the technology space including information security, state Government initiatives, and local startups.

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