Bullying in schools

What is bullying?

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

Placing a once-off offensive or hurtful public message, image or statement on a social network site or other public forum where that message, image or statement can be viewed or repeated by other people is also regarded as bullying behaviour.


Cyberbullying is bullying through the internet or mobile phone, often through social networking sites used by young people. A booklet GET WITH IT! A guide to cyberbullying (pdf) has been produced as a joint initiative between the Office for Internet Safety and Barnardos. The booklet aims to increase awareness of all aspects of cyberbullying including how to identify it and how to prevent it.

How do I know if my child is being bullied?

Many children who are being bullied are afraid to speak out. They are scared of reprisals if they tell someone. 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

The signs of bullying can be:

  • Fear of going to school
  • Poor or deteriorating schoolwork, 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  • Withdrawn behaviour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.

How is bullying stopped?

Intervention from adults is usually necessary. Bullying behaviour must be challenged or it will become regular and get worse.

If you think someone is being bullied, you should talk to the class teacher or the principal.

If the matter cannot be resolved by the school staff, you can report the matter 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 its school's students. The school’s Board of Management in turn is responsible to the school patron for the exercise of its duties under the Education Act 1998.

The Department of Education can advise you on how to proceed with a complaint. The Department of Education itself does not have any power to investigate complaints.

The Tackle Bullying website is a national website to prevent, intervene and resolve bullying and cyberbullying for young people, parents and teachers.

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

Anti-bullying procedures in schools

Bullying can occur at any age and in any environment. Bullying in schools is a particular problem because children spend so much of their time there and are in large social groups.

The school authorities are responsible for dealing with bullying. All schools should have an anti-bullying policy as part of their overall code of behaviour. The Department has published Anti-Bullying Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools (pdf).

Where to get help

If your child is being bullied, you should contact your child’s school.

You can find useful websites and organisations that may provide guidance and support on the Department of Education’s website.

Barnardos provides resources about bullying for young people.

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

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

Page edited: 11 April 2023