Bullying in schools

What is bullying?

Bullying is unwanted negative behaviour (verbal, psychological, or physical), conducted by an individual or group against another person (or persons), and which is repeated over time.

If someone posts a once-off offensive or hurtful public message, image, or statement on a social network site (or another public forum) where that message, image, or statement can be viewed or repeated by other people, this is also bullying behaviour.


Cyberbullying is bullying through the internet or mobile phone, often through social networking sites.

This means a person can be cyberbullied whenever they are online, even when in their own home. Because it happens on the internet, it is difficult to prevent.

How to deal with cyberbullying

For information about how to deal with cyberbullying, you can:

How do I know if my child is being bullied?

Many children who are being bullied are afraid to speak out. They may be worried that telling someone will make the bullying worse.

Reports have shown that as young people grow older, they are less likely to tell someone. They become more and more isolated, experience depression and, in extreme cases, can harm themselves or attempt suicide.

Signs of bullying

Tusla and Barnardos have a booklet about coping with bullying for parents of children between 6 and 12 (pdf).

It says signs of bullying can include:

  • Fear of going to school
  • Poor or deteriorating schoolwork, or an inability to concentrate
  • Withdrawn behaviour
  • Depression
  • Loss of confidence
  • Reluctance to go out
  • Shortage of money
  • Torn clothes, broken glasses, missing schoolbooks
  • Repeated signs of bruising and injuries

What can I do if my child is a bully?

If you think your child might be a bully, it is important to recognise this and help them to deal with it. You should talk to the class teacher about this bullying behaviour and how it could be changed.

If you are told that your child might be bullying somebody, it is important to react appropriately. Try not to immediately dismiss the allegation, nor immediately punish your child.

Instead, you should establish the facts of what happened and, if bullying has occurred, work with the teacher to:

  • Show your child the consequences of their actions, and
  • Hold them accountable for their behaviour.

You can read Tusla’s guidance on what to do if you suspect your child is a bully.

How is bullying stopped?

If a child is being bullied at school, adult intervention is usually needed. Bullying must be challenged or it will become regular and get worse.

If you think your child is being bullied at school, you should first talk to the class teacher or school principal.

School authorities are responsible for dealing with bullying. All schools should have an anti-bullying policy as part of their overall code of behaviour.

Anti-bullying initiatives for schools

The Department of Education has published a new anti-bullying strategy, Cineáltas: Action Plan on Bullying (pdf), and an implementation plan for 2023-2027.

As part of this strategy, new anti-bullying modules will be taught in primary and post-primary schools from September 2024. These modules include a first-year resource to support students moving from primary to post-primary education.

The modules will build on the existing FUSE programme, which is currently taught in primary and post-primary schools, and which covers:

  • Noticing and reporting bullying, and
  • Dealing with cyberbullying and online conflict.

If the bullying continues

If the matter cannot be resolved by the school staff, you can report it to the Chairperson of the school’s Board of Management. The Board of Management is legally responsible for the day-to-day running of the school and has a duty of care to the students.

The Board is instructed by the school patron to carry out its duties under the Education Act 1998.

Making a complaint

Whether your child is in primary school or post-primary school, you can get information on how to make a complaint about bullying from the Department of Education. However, the Department of Education itself does not have any power to investigate complaints.

The Department’s anti-bullying procedures for primary and post-primary schools (pdf) are expected to be updated in 2024.

The updated procedures will:

  • Include guidance on when bullying becomes a child protection concern
  • Ensure proper oversight at school-level
  • Make sure that schools’ anti-bullying policies are developed in consultation with whole school communities.

Serious instances of bullying

Serious instances of bullying, where the behaviour is regarded as possibly abusive, must be reported to Tusla or An Garda Síochána.

Where to get help

If your child is being bullied at school, you should first contact their school (see ‘How is bullying stopped?’ above).

You can also:

If your child has experienced serious instances of bullying, where the behaviour is regarded as possibly abusive, you should report it to Tusla or An Garda Síochána.

Tusla - Child and Family Agency

Brunel Building
Heuston South Quarter
Dublin 8

Tel: (01) 771 8500

Garda Síochána

Phoenix Park
Dublin 8
D08 HN3X

Tel: 01 6660000; Garda Confidential: 1800 666 111
Page edited: 29 April 2024