Cyberbullying – When Does a School Authority’s Liability in Tort End?

May 25, 2015 Emotional Education


Cyberbullying in schools is increasing on an alarming rate. The development of the Internet and smartphone technology have increased the potential scope of a school authority’s duty of care for its students. A question frequently asked by educators is “Where does a school authority’s duty of care end in the interconnected, 24/7 world of the Internet?” This paper argues that a duty of care will be owed where the school is in a school/student relationship with its students. That relationship can exist outside the school gates and outside of school hours.

There are no decisions of senior appellate courts that deal with a school authority’s liability for cyberbullying. The authors, therefore, analyse the nature of the relationship to identify the key features that must be present to establish the existence of a duty of care. Three features are identified as critical to the existence of the duty of care outside of the normal school hours. They are the extent to which the school authority controls or ought to control a given situation, the extent to which it has encouraged students to participate in a particular activity and the extent to which a school authority is aware or ought to be aware of risks associated with the relevant activity of its students.

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