School Bullies Could Soon Face Legal Action From Their Peers

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The issue of bullying within schools has left a trail of emotional scars and psychological trauma for many learners across the nation. As part of a step towards combatting this problem, school children might soon gain the ability to seek legal protection against their bullies.


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A groundbreaking development in the intersection of the justice system and basic education is on the horizon: school learners may soon have the option to apply for a protection order against their bullies. 

What sets this new legal avenue apart is that it can be pursued without parental involvement, potentially allowing children as young as 10 years old to initiate legal proceedings against peers who engage in bullying behaviour.

Department of Basic Education's Perspective

Elijah Mhlanga, the spokesperson for the Department of Basic Education, acknowledges that while this legislation may not single-handedly eradicate bullying within schools, it lays a vital foundation for implementing measures to address the issue more comprehensively. 

"We don't think it will solve all the problems, but it will go a long way in putting together a set of measures that we believe are required to eradicate bullying.

Because it is clear that as a country we have a huge problem when it comes to bullying, especially among children of school-going age." Mhlanga stated.

Bullying has remained an ongoing problem within South African schools, fueling widespread debate and concern. Existing legislation designed to safeguard children from bullying includes:

  • The South African Schools Act
  • The Cyber Crime Act 2020
  • The Protection of Harassment Act 2008
  • The Child Justice Act 2011

Despite the presence of these Acts, the Department of Basic Education has reported an alarming uptick in cases of youth suicides resulting from ongoing bullying, revealing a grim dimension of the issue.

Calls For A Prudent Approach

William Booth, an expert in criminal law, underscores the importance of a cautious approach when implementing the proposed legislation. Booth argues that the involvement of parents and guardians remains crucial due to the complex legal and psychological implications. 

Addressing the issue of criminal capacity for children, Booth suggests that children as young as 10 applying for legal orders independently could pose challenges, necessitating parental guidance.

“One must consider the issue of capacity so the Child Justice Act deals with criminal capacity in respect of children. So a child of 10 on his or her own going and applying for any kind of order against somebody is problematic. Parents have to get involved.” Booth added

Booth emphasises that school authorities, such as teachers and guidance counsellors, should be closely involved in this process to ensure that young learners are fully aware of the repercussions associated with instituting legal action. The need to grasp the weight of legal consequences is paramount in this endeavour.

Challenges and Broader Implications

Additionally, Booth brings attention to potential hurdles, including the difficulties schools might face in managing court-mandated rules such as maintaining a certain distance from the victim.

Moreover, he highlights the complex issue of bullying involving teachers or learners targeting teachers, adding an additional layer of complexity to the situation.
 

Suggested Article:

Violence-related incidents within schools have garnered ongoing media coverage
in South Africa in recent years and bullying is one of the problems preventing students
from benefiting fully from their learning experience.

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