ABA's position on the French government plans to introduce new laws to criminalise school bullying

The French government is introducing new laws to establish the crime of “school bullying” applies to children and adults in schools and universities, including students as well as staff such as canteen service teams and break-time monitors. It would carry a maximum three-year jail term and a fine of up to €45,000 (£38,300).

Classroom with pupils and teacher

If a victim of school bullying kills themselves, or attempts to, the maximum penalty could rise to 10 years and €150,000. It is not expected that this will apply to younger children and the measures also include resources for community and schools. 

Read the Guardian article about the new laws

The Anti-Bullying Alliance's elected Advisory Group has established a position on any introduction of new laws to establish a criminal offence of 'school bullying': 

Bullying behaviour between children and young people is multi-faceted – involving children of all ages; often influenced by wider peer group, school and social cultures, and sometimes involving vulnerable children who both bully and are bullied. In working together to tackle bullying and provide clear messages that any such behaviour is unacceptable we believe that all children have the capacity to change their behaviour with the right support and challenge.

We do not believe there is evidence to support additional laws that seek to penalise individual children and young people and that go beyond existing legal powers in the UK relating to physical, sexual and emotional abuse will protect children from bullying.  

The experience of the Anti-Bullying Alliance supported by research, has shown that the best way to address bullying is to hold national government, local government and schools to account for their role in preventing and responding to bullying behaviour (with the support of existing laws and legislation), for government to continue to invest in anti-bullying programmes and initiatives that evidence lasting change in the lives of children and young people, and to work collectively with children and young people and the wider children’s workforce to make sure they understand the impact of bullying behaviour, and challenge all forms of bullying wherever it takes place.

It is good news that the French government is increasing resources for prevention and education, as well as improving the provisions for children to take part in community educational schemes about bullying. We would like to see more investment in these types of approaches in the UK and we have a series of agreed policy recommendations we’d like to see implemented.

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December 2021

Research undertaken in Finland by Christina Salmivalli (1996) gave us a greater understanding of the roles involved in bullying. It showed that the traditional view of bullying where there is a ‘victim’ and a ‘bully’ was much more complicated. Bullying rarely takes place between a 'victim' and a 'bully' alone. It tends to be a group behaviour. Others can have a significant influence on the outcomes of behaviours among children and young people intentionally or otherwise.

The video below explains more about these roles.

To discuss the issue of criminalising bullying behaviour, the Anti-Bullying Alliance was interviewed by the Daily Mail's Andrew Peirce Podcast on 3rd December. You can listen back to it here

Our members, Diana Award Anti-Bullying Pro, were interviewed by Good Morning Britain about the issue: