Is Bullying Assault, And Should It Be Criminalised Where Offenders Must Face Our Justice System?

A recent case where a student was allegedly hit within the school premises by other students using a table leg was shocking. Whether we call it bullying or an initiation ritual as part of ‘school culture’ is simply unacceptable.
03 Mar 2020 16:00
Is Bullying Assault, And Should It Be Criminalised Where Offenders Must Face Our Justice System?


No student deserves to be hit by a table leg for any reason whatsoever.

While a video shot last year has just surfaced showing this alleged act, it highlights a culture of violence that exists in some of our schools.

We need to nip it in the bud because it makes a mockery of our zero-tolerance against corporal punishment.

It is a matter of grave concern that one of the alleged bullies from last year’s case was allegedly assaulted on Sunday night after the video went viral on social media.

While it has been said that the students allegedly involved in last year’s case were dealt with then, one of them is still at the school.

He was the target of this latest alleged attack. As the Police investigate the latest incident because of its link to the first incident, some questions need to be asked.

Did the school refer the matter to the Police last year?

If it didn’t why was it not done when it allegedly involved serious physical violence?

What form of punishment was meted out for the alleged attackers?

In the latest incident, the school has referred the matter to the Police.

That’s the right course of action. If Police were involved last year, it might have not developed to the current situation.

Yesterday, the student attacked on Sunday was sporting a badly swollen elbow as he was taken into the Police Station and would require medical attention.

It is not uncommon for bullying to happen in schools and sometimes we treat it lightly.

But where physical violence is involved, it is assault and it is a crime. When an alleged crime is committed the Police must be notified.

We have seen in this case that the school alone cannot handle it because it is beyond the scope of its experience and responsibility.

However, the teachers and the Ministry of Education owe a duty of care towards the students while they are within the school compound.

As a starting point, there should be zero tolerance on any form of bullying in schools. This should be reflected in their disciplinary mechanisms/policies.

When it comes to physical violence the Crimes Act is explicit. It is a crime punishable by a prison term.

“A person commits a summary offence if he or she commits an assault occasioning actual bodily harm,” the Act says. The penalty is imprisonment for five years.

So let’s stop calling assault on a student by another student as bullying. It is assault. Or should we criminalise bullying as well? It depends on our definition of bullying. There are different forms of bullying and varying degrees of physical violence. As far as assault is concerned, just a touch can be construed as assault.

It appears there is common reluctance by schools and administration to deal decisively against bullying.

The word bullying should be dropped and replaced by assault in schools.

That would heighten our awareness and prompt us to take this issue seriously and do something about it.

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