The Courts attitude to bullying….how does the Court assess what is in the best interests of the child?
The Federal Circuit Court has recently considered the application of the mother of a young child in Year 6, to change her school in order to protect her from bullying. This application was made despite the child having attended that school since Kindergarten.
The mother’s proposal was, in order for the child to be protected from bullying and to ensure that the child’s outstanding academic record be maintained that she be allowed to transfer to a school which in total added 150 minutes a day to the child’s travel times.
The court considered the evidence of the child who reported to the family reporter that the playground “had become a warzone”. The child stated clearly and unambiguously that she did not wish to go to that school any longer. In its assessment the court found the child’s evidence to be clear and intelligent.
The mother’s evidence was that the child “was reluctant to go to school” and often would “sob uncontrollably”.
The father’s evidence was that the child had been schooled by the mother in order to achieve her own purposes.
The court in considering the matter took into account the respective schools anti-bullying policies and indicated that the proposed school had a well-documented policy focusing on the building and maintaining of the child’s self-esteem.
The court decided that the anti-bullying policies were but one of the matters that the Court was entitled to take into account in determining what was in the
“best interests of the child.”
Accordingly, the court made orders to allow the child to transfer schools in accordance with the mother’s proposal, despite the distance to the school.