Resolving this issue may not necessarily be easy so I will be honest with you from the start. At present it appears that this is your (and your daughter's word) against the other person and their daughter's words. There could be others who were witnesses to what has happened but at that age they may not really be able to provide credible evidence.
So if there continues to be a divisive difference in opinions, it can only really be resolved where both parties agree to cooperate with each other and forget their differences. I know that this is easier said than done but it is the reality of the situation.
The school can be involved but there is only so much they can do and their real involvement will come if it becomes apparent that this situation is disrupting the schooling of the other students or if it becomes an intolerable situation. That is when they can consider disciplinary action (if that is allowed under your contract) or even termination of the contract.
In terms of bullying, if a child is being bullied at school, the parent/guardian should approach the school to tell them about the situation and find out what they are doing, or planning to do, to deal with the problem. The parent/guardian would be expected to follow these steps:
- Talk to the child to find out what has happened
- Talk to the class teacher about the problems the child has experienced
- Talk to the head teacher if the class teacher’s response is unsatisfactory
- Consider making a formal complaint to the school if necessary
If all else fails, you may wish to consider legal action. Some forms of bullying may amount to criminal behaviour. Where a child who has been bullied has been threatened, the bully may have committed the offence of ‘threatening behaviour’ under s.4 of the Public Order Act 1986. If the bullied child is physically assaulted, the bullies may have committed the criminal offences of common or indecent assault.
In addition, you may also consider action under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 if you believe the child has been harassed by its bullies.
In terms of civil action, you may be able to sue the school for damages as compensation for psychiatric damage or physical injuries suffered by your child as a result of a school or teacher negligently failing to act to protect your child from bullying. Negligence arises where a duty of care is owed to the child, and that duty of care is breached resulting in injury or damage to the child.
However, the law of negligence is very complex. For a case to be successful, it would be necessary to prove the following:
- That your child was bullied
- That the school/teacher owed the child a duty of care
- That the child has suffered as a result of the bullying
- That the harm was foreseeable
- That the harm suffered was a direct result of the school negligently failing to act to protect your child
Finally, if your child attends an independent school, you have entered into a contract with the school on behalf of your child. The school agrees to provide services to your child and may be sued if it fails to provide such services.
A private school contract may include an express obligation on the school to provide a reasonably safe environment for your child. Even if not expressly stated, such an obligation would be considered by the courts to be implied in the contract. A school which failed to provide such an environment could be sued for breach of contract in the civil courts. For example, this might happen where a school fails to provide adequate supervision to prevent serious bullying and a child suffers physical or psychological harm as a result.
Remember that all of the above rights will also apply to the other child.