Teacher Guide to Bullying and Exclusion

Refer to your school’s Student Engagement Policy

All schools are expected to have a Student Engagement Policy to prevent and respond to bullying or other forms of unacceptable behaviour. This policy will include whole school strategies and initiatives as outlined in the Victorian Department of Education’s anti-bullying policy. Your engagement and support of this policy can help create an inclusive environment for students with a disability.

Talk regularly with students about inclusion

Consider ways in which you can promote tolerance in your classroom. Talk to students about diversity and the ways in which individual differences can be valued. Consider having different guests or show videos which cover different disabilities, and highlight positive contributions made by various people with disabilities. Talk about language, including why we should avoid terms that may be offensive to another child. Focus on the strengths and positive attributes of people/children with disabilities. If a child and their family wish to disclose a child’s disability to peers, consider accessing AllPlay Learn’s disclosing a disability page which includes information about how to talk with peers about a disability, or AllPlay Learn’s Information Sheets for Peers in the teacher resources page.

Talk to students about your school’s bullying policy

Discuss with students what bullying is (and isn’t!), what exclusion is, and clearly outline for them what inclusion and positive behaviour looks like at school. Provide clear expectations to students about what is expected of them, and what is not tolerated at school. You may also want to complete an activity with students in which they create a group agreement or guidelines as to what inclusion and positive social behaviour will look like in their classroom and playground.

Teach students social and emotion regulation skills

Consider teaching children positive social skills that they can use to develop friendships or handle conflict (see AllPlay Learn’s social skills page), and training students how to be inclusive of others (see AllPlay Learn’s peer mediation resource). Teaching all students how to recognise emotions and express them in a positive way can also help reduce conflict and increase inclusion (see AllPlay Learn’s emotions page for information about emotion development and regulation). It may also be important to talk to students about how to respond when being bullied or when they see someone else being bullied, and how they can seek help.

Consider ways in which your classroom and school can support a student’s inclusion

Identify the situations or contexts in which exclusion may happen (e.g. lunchtimes, group activities), and take action to prevent this. For example, lunchtimes may be particularly challenging for children who are unsure how to join in with others. Diverse lunchtime programs such as organising games on the oval, chess club, or choir can provide opportunities for children to join in and get to know other children, particularly if these are linked to a student’s interests. It may be important to consider age groups when running lunchtime programs to ensure they are accessible for all students (for example, hold ‘Prep-Grade 3’ games on the oval separately to ‘Grades 4-6’ games).

Learn how to recognise the signs that a student may be experiencing bullying or exclusion

If a student’s behaviour or emotion regulation changes significantly, this can sometimes be an indicator that they are being bullied or excluded. There can also be many other possible explanations for changes in behaviour and emotions. If you observe some of the following indicators, consider talking with the student directly or observing peer interactions and relationships over a number of days.

Bullying scripts

Students can practise asking for help, using these scripts.

How to ask your friend if they are okay
What to do if you see someone is being bullied
How to ask a teacher for help if you think you are being bullied
How to ask a parent or adult for help if you think you are being bullied