Filming bullying situations: against the law or helping seek justice?

There is no surprise that with the rise in the use of smartphones, so too comes a rise in capturing schoolyard bullying on video. In some cases, video footage could be beneficial to assist in proving what really happens. However, in some situations, this can cause further harm to those involved, usually because of the way that it is used or distributed. This article seeks to inform parents, teachers and students of what they need to be aware of before they make the decision to capture a situation on camera, and the way in which they use or distribute that footage.

It’s against school policy

Like other States, the Queensland Department of Education’s Information Communication and Technology (ICT) Procedure contains Advice for State Schools on Acceptable Use of ICT Facilities and Devices. The policy outlines appropriate use of mobile phones or other recording devices by students in schools. It states that inappropriate use of a mobile phone at school includes to “invade someone’s privacy by recording personal conversations or daily activities and/or the further distribution (e.g. forwarding, texting, uploading, Bluetooth use etc.) of such material”.

Furthermore, every Queensland State School has a Responsible Behaviour Plan for Students (RBPS). While each Principal is responsible for developing the RBPS in consultation with their school community, a fairly common feature of these RBPS is an expectation that mobile phones are not used to film another person on school grounds. The RBPS sets out possible disciplinary consequences when behaviour expectations are not met.

It could be against the law

According to Law Stuff “While the laws are a little bit different in each state and territory, in most cases, it’s illegal to use your phone or another device to record a conversation without the knowledge and permission of everyone involved.”

In Queensland, it is illegal to visually record another person without their consent where that person is engaging in a private act or is in a private place. So for example filming someone in the school bathroom or change rooms will likely be against the law without the consent of the person being filmed. Furthermore, distributing that footage, for example uploading it to your Facebook or YouTube, is also against the law.

To get more familiar with your legal rights in your State or Territory check out LawStuff.

If someone is violating my rights by bullying me, why can’t I share a video of it happening?

Quite simply, because you will be violating their rights by doing so. These school policies and laws have been put in place to protect people’s privacy. Even if someone is committing a harmful act, sharing footage of that incident through inappropriate channels could make your situation worse as well as causing harm to others involved. If you aren’t happy with the way that adults and teachers are responding to your situation, take a look at what else you can do on The BULLY Project’s website.

So what do I do if I have footage on my phone of a bullying situation?

If it’s proof of bullying at school or shows an illegal act, it’s important that you seek assistance so those incidents can be investigated and you can get the right help. Talk with a trusted adult (e.g. parent, principal, police) about how your footage needs to be treated. Remember, you don’t want to make the incident worse by sharing this footage around. A parent, carer or Principal will help you escalate the issue to the Police if needed.

You should never send or show the footage to other students, or post it online, or give it to anyone else other than your parent or carer, teacher, Principal or the Police.

What can teachers and adults do?

To prevent students resorting to capturing footage on their phones, make sure your bullying reporting procedures are meeting your students’ needs. It’s important that students and your children feel comfortable with telling you or a trusted adult if they are being bullied, have witnessed bullying or know someone who is being bullied. It’s also critical to respond quickly and effectively to prevent more harm, and in turn will build trust and confidence in your school community.

Author: Katie Barry is the Impact Producer for The BULLY Project Australia, the social action campaign inspired by the award winning U.S. documentary film BULLY, directed by Lee Hirsch. The BULLY Project offers tools and resources for teachers, parents and students to build their social and emotional skills, and enable communities to lead their own change.


Queensland Department of Education ICT Procedure

Links to National and State Education Department Policies on the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner

Law Stuff

The BULLY Project