Can legal remedy be used to address bullying and cyberbullying in South African schools?

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Bullying is part of the reality of teachers and learners all over the world. While other forms of bullying are limited to the time when learners interact face-to-face, cyber­bullying follows learners via their electronic devices wherever they go. Bullying negatively affect victims and amongst others result in anxiety, low self-esteem and poor academic performance. In some instances, victims become suicidal. Prevent­ing and counteracting bullying requires interventions on several level, and one pos­sibility is to take a legal response. In this paper, the South African legal response is considered. There are several legislative and common law remedies available to victims, but these are not without challenges. Explicit reference to bullying is made in only one act, namely the Children’s Act but no definition of bullying or cyberbul­lying is provided. It is clear that while there are sufficient legal remedies available in the South African context, to address bullying and cyberbullying, particularly with the emphasis on Human Rights and the rights of children, the suitability of legal action is questionable.

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