Bullying and harassment by students and parents remains significant problem

21 October, 2020

Teacher-targeted bullying by students and parents remains a significant problem in Australian schools, according to the 2020 report of the ongoing Teacher-Targeted Bullying and Harassment (TTBH) by students and parents study.

While the 2019 study examined the prevalence of TTBH in Australian schools, the 2020 study aimed to build upon this and ascertain the conditions – or school climate – that may exacerbate or ameliorate the prevalence of TTBH.

The four general areas of school climate selected for the study were:

  • Education system (government, Catholic or independent)
  • Perceived school culture relating to incidence and prevention of TTBH
  • A school’s relative educational dis/advantage
  • A school’s geographic location (Metropolitan, Rural or Split – rural/metro)

The full 2020 report can be found here.

IEU-QNT Research Officer Adele Schmidt said our union continues to represent our members’ interests on the advisory group of the project.

“Our union supports this project as part of our work in advocating for the professional and industrial rights of members,” she said.

“There is a wealth of knowledge about other types of bulling and harassment in schools, but very little research examining the bullying and harassment of teachers by students and parents.

“It is critical that teachers, support staff and principals are able to work in a safe environment but sadly, we know – from member reports and now this project – that this form of bullying and harassment has a significant impact on safety and welfare.

“In a time where teachers are going above and beyond for their students, we must ensure that schools are aware of and have clear policies and procedures in place to support teachers from TTBH,” Adele said.

Key findings

TTBH is a frequent occurrence with 84.5% of the respondents reporting having experienced some form of student or parent TTBH over the last nine to twelve-month period, according the report.

The was an equal likelihood of a teacher experiencing TTBH by students or parents across all geographic areas, with teachers reporting similar levels of TTBH in rural (84.3%), metropolitan (84.5%) or split metro/rural schools (90.7%).

Student enacted TTBH was more prevalent than parent enacted in all sectors (Catholic 59%, Independent 57.3% and Government: 60.7%).

Teachers working in schools from lower Socio-Educational Advantage backgrounds were more likely to report instances of bullying by either a student or parent.

Parent-enacted TTBH

Of the incidents recorded, the most common forms of parent-enacted TTBH were: verbally disparaging a teacher (42.1%); yelling (26.4%); being engaged by their child to argue on their behalf (26.4%); and lying about a teacher/principal to get [the teacher] into trouble (24.4%).

The most common TTBH parent behaviours in the Catholic sector were disparaging remarks (41.9%) and yelling (29.2%).

In the independent sector, the most common TTBH parent behaviours were disparaging remarks (46.6%) and students engaging parents to argue on their behalf (32.1%).

View the full report findings here.

Study focus

Conducted with teachers along Australia’s East Coast, the study examined the role location, social economic advantage and school type might place in the prevalence and impact of TTBH.

1213 teachers took part in a survey and 46 completed subsequent interviews.

The study aimed to answer the following questions:

  1. What levels and types of TTBH by students and parents are encountered by teachers in government, independent, and Catholic schools?
  2. Is there a correlation between types of TTBH generated by students and their parents and a school’s relative social-educational advantage?
  3. What role does a school’s geographical location play in the prevalence and impact of TTBH by students and parents?
  4. In what ways does the school administration’s handling of reports of student and parental TTBH affect teachers’ sense of wellbeing and self-efficacy?


The report recommended an examination into the most effective strategies which schools in all sectors are using to address TTBH in order to establish best practice protocols.

It also recommended an evidence-based best practice protocol be formally adopted by schools, employing authorities and education departments.

These recommendations should be seriously considered in all Australian schooling sectors to ensure teachers are provided with a safe working environment, particularly as the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on teacher wellbeing is not yet well understood, according to the report.

Members are encouraged to contact our union if they experience an incident of TTBH – our expert industrial team will provide specialised support and assistance.

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