Bullying hits the courts – Andrew Barr wishes to be seen to be doing something

johnboy 5 May 2007 24

The Canberra Times has an interesting story on schoolyard bullying reaching the courts via a massive spike in the numbers of Personal Protection Orders being sought by parents concerned for their children’s safety.

Andrew Barr is seeking a briefing and wants to impose top down measures to reduce the number of orders being applied for. Which is not quite the same thing as seeking a reduction in bullying.

Good to see that the anti-social behaviour management strategies are working so well in place of corporal punishment.

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24 Responses to Bullying hits the courts – Andrew Barr wishes to be seen to be doing something
nyssa76 nyssa76 7:27 pm 08 May 07

No the matter isn’t public vs private, however your points did need a response.

Bullying in Non Govt schools is more controlled and those children usually enrol in the local Govt school and cause problems all over again.

Bullying won’t disappear until schools are given the power to expel those students who are the cause of the problem.

VicePope VicePope 1:01 pm 08 May 07

Nyssa – I suspect we agree more than disagree. The problem is not public/private and I’d suggest it is not unknown for some students in both to challenge the system when they want out of it. There are only three seriously private schools in the ACT (the Grammars and Radford) and the rest are bog-standard Catholic or generic Christian with fairly modest fees. The parents at the latter are, in my experience, absolutely the same as the parents at any government school in terms of financial resources. The difference is that the school can be more active in getting them involved in a consistent way than may be possible at a government school. (And they might value the product a bit more, because they’re paying for it, and usually out of fairly average wages). So let’s not tar the entire non-government system with the wealthy brush.

I have known many non-Catholic children who go to Catholic schools for reasons like proximity, friendships and subject choices. When my family became aware of a teenage girl (non-Catholic) falling into strife/victimisation in the government system, the offers to take her on from McKillop and St Clares’ were faster and more considered than those from other schools in the government system. The subject of fees was not mentioned at all at that stage and I know that concessions of one kind or another are not uncommon.

But this thread isn’t about public/private but about responses to bullying in schools generally.

auntiesocial auntiesocial 1:47 am 08 May 07

It was explained to me by our Solicitor after we moved our son from the ACT public system, where he was stabbed in the eye with a syringe by a fellow student, that the bullying problems don’t disappear once the child has been moved to the Private system, the bullies parents just have more money and influence, which makes it all the harder to act against their children.

nyssa76 nyssa76 10:54 pm 07 May 07


(a) When the Federal Govt states there are Govt and Non Govt school students and that there is funding attached to either group – then the students who attend said schools are labelled as such.

(b) Most schools “get around it” because of their religious dogma. Staff who apply for teaching positions in Non Govt schools are prioritised according to their religion and/or University degree i.e. ACU.

(c) Non Govt students pale in comparison re: behaviour. In some schools to not wear a tie can get you sent home and labelled a “bad” student.

(d) They have more leverage as the parents are paying copious amounts of money and want a good return for their investment.

(e) They “seem” more willing, but it doesn’t mean they really want to deal with the issues. Redirecting a student to a more “relaxed” Non Govt school or to the local Govt school does happen, especially when the student is “bad” and more so when they aren’t of the same denomination.

Students who are violent and/or anti-social should lose the “right” to be in a mainstream school. Teachers shouldn’t then be made to man said “zoos” as they don’t need the constant threats with sharp implements or death threats.

Again, these children are a reflection on their parents and if their parents won’t “do” anything about them, then they should be made to teach them.

Teachers aren’t babysitters and the other 29 kids aren’t an audience.

Again, Mr. Barr needs to speak to people in the coal face if he is to achieve anything.

kiwi – I 100% sympathise.

VicePope VicePope 5:38 pm 07 May 07

Simbo suggested that non-government schools funding should be linked to their taking on government school students. I note (a) there is no separate race or creed known as government school students so it would be impossible to distinguish them. (b) funding already requires that schools be prepared to take some students from outside their (usually religious) catchment and (c) the non-government schools I know have some problem students, but (d) they have more leverage to get the parents involved and (e) they seemed more willing to deal with issues. I was never aware of a child being kicked out of one of those schools and sent to a government school as a matter of course – everything would be done to try to keep the child at that school or at another in the system.

I agree wholeheartedly with establishing a couple of “zoo” schools to which others could send their disruptive, bullying students. If they upset anyone, it would only be one of their own. (Wouldn’t want to teach there, though).

jenna jenna 2:42 pm 07 May 07

“most of them come down to really bad parenting.”

I couldn’t agree more. Many parents nowadays don’t believe in boundary setting for their kids, much less discipline. I’m not advocating physical punishment as such, but children need to learn consequences for anti-social or unsafe behaviour. If they don’t learn this in their formative years, 0-7, we can’t expect the schools to correct the mistakes of bad parenting. However, we can’t lay all blame at the parents feet. Children are influenced by many things they see around them, eg TV, video games, other adults etc. So society as a whole has to bear responsibility for the breakdown of values.

And most importantly, consequences should be immediate, so that an association is made between the action and the outcome. I know of teenagers who end up before the courts months after offences have been committed? Where is cause and effect?

VicePope VicePope 1:42 pm 07 May 07

Why shouldn’t child victims of violence committed by other children have the same rights as others, and assistance to exercise them? Trying to limit the orders is like trying to paint over a termite-infested wall. A bushfire won’t go out if you simply say it isn’t there.

The causes of the bullying problem are too many to list but most of them come down to really bad parenting. Parents who allow their children the latitude needed to behave unsafely with alcohol, drugs and sex before they’re ready for it. Parents whose substitute for showing a good example is to bellow like bulls when the child comes to the attention of school authorities or law enforcement. Parents who show an example of selfish, arrogant and aggressive behaviour that their children see and copy. Parents who do the homework so that the kid appears diligent and competent instead of dumb and/or lazy.

Any system has to bring responsibility for damage back to the person who caused it. It’s usually not the school – some kids turn out really well, most pretty well and some become monsters in the same school. It starts a lot earlier.

I suspect the bullying thing, and some other examples of laissez-faire on the part of schools, are a product of some teachers realising that the problem is too big to knock over using only the school resources. Those same things may be a reason many parents who are able to do so will move their children to private education, and away from well-equipped government schools and their mostly competent teachers. If a school’s culture is determined by a clique of borderline criminals (bullying means assault, extortion, abuse, threats etc), what sane parent with the means to do so would allow his or her child to be left there?

kiwi61 kiwi61 12:57 pm 07 May 07

nyssa, i love the fact that NOW Andrew Barr wants some answers on the escalating PPO’s, but when i contacted him last year about the seven PPO’s being obtained at our high school and requesting a meeting with him, it took two emails and an email to Stanhope before he was forced to contact me.

The parents at our school would have been appeased before we were forced into this, if the principal (who has left now), had the intestinal fortitude to at least keep the gang of girls away from the rest of the school at recess, lunchtime and for 10 minutes after school, until they learnt to show some basic common decency towards the other students. A week or two of being unable to stroll around at recess and lunch, and having them split up, therefore taking away their power base, would have solved a multitude of problems.

jenna jenna 12:41 pm 07 May 07

When is personal responsibility going to be a feature of this society again. It seems that blame for social problems is always being palmed off to someone else. In the case of the bullying, parents are pushing it onto teachers or the justice system. The attitude of ” not my little johnny” is contributing to the problem. It is time that personal responsibilty for behaviour takes precendence over the “rights” of people to doing what they want! The justice system is a prime example. Perpetrators have more rights than victims, and I figure that some schoolyard bullies, particularly those protected by their parents from their behaviour, are some of the ones who will eventually show up in our criminal system… on the wrong side of it!

jenna jenna 12:37 pm 07 May 07

When is personal responsibility going to be a feature of this society again. It seems that blame for social problems is always being palmed off to someone else. In the case of the bullying, parents are pushing it onto teachers or the justice system. The attitude of ” not my little johnny” is contributing to the problem

nyssa76 nyssa76 11:23 pm 06 May 07

I should add that top down measures won’t work. The hierarchical system that is currently in place at ACTDET proves that there is already little communication (in terms of conversation) and rather orders are dictated from above.

If Mr. Barr wants to know why it is rising he needs to talk to 1) parents, 2) teachers and 3) students. He doesn’t need to speak to staff within ACTDET as some in high positions have never taught in a school or haven’t for several years.

nyssa76 nyssa76 11:19 pm 06 May 07

Sadly simbo, it isn’t going to happen.

Already this year, at my school (Govt), there are 3 new students from my old school (Non Govt). There is a mix of reasons why but two are bully related.

My suggestion to Mr. Barr is that once a child has 4 red cards by Term 1 of a school year (due to bullying and/or anti-social behaviour – and yes I have seen a child on repeated red cards all Term 1) they should be sent to a special school or their parents be made to home school their offspring.

simbo simbo 8:04 pm 06 May 07

Nyssa – exactly. That’s why I’m arguing that the opposite should have a chance to apply – government is funding private schooling anyway, so why not attach a few conditions to level the playing field a little?

nyssa76 nyssa76 7:37 pm 06 May 07

simbo, kids that are “expelled” from Non Govt schools walk into their local Govt school and then we have to keep them. They don’t have to keep them and they still get Govt funding and spout “we’re better” etc.

seepi, there are a few “special” schools for behavioural issues – the Cottage (Belco) and Galilee (Tuggers) – however they have small numbers and are considered “Non” Govt schools by ACTDET.

el, yes you are right about Dairy Flat. Only problem was that staff were being threatened with knives, their children’s lives were threatened etc by the students and nothing was done. In one year 2 teachers left within the first few days of the school term because of this.

boomacat, once a child is 14 yo 9 months, they don’t have to be in a Govt school. Funnily enough, those students who do cause problems stay after that age and are a further disruption to the learning of others.

Repeat offenders should be set up in home schooling.
If they want to fail they can do it without disrupting the learning of others.

But the problem is – the rights of the disruptive/violent student outweigh the rights of the other 29 kids in the class.

el el 6:01 pm 06 May 07

“It’s” should read “Isn’t” above. Sorry.

el el 5:18 pm 06 May 07

It’s that what the ‘Dairy Flat’ school was there for?

seepi seepi 4:26 pm 06 May 07

There should be some special schools for the really vile kids.
Unfortunately ACT govt can’t afford to run enough normal schools, let alone special extras.

boomacat boomacat 12:37 pm 06 May 07

It is a real shame that it takes litigation to make the community to sit up and take bullying seriously.

Sure, the easy answer is to demonise dysfunctional children and hold them responsible for bullying.

But as adults we have an obligation to children, including amongst other things to help them become healthy, responsible, functioning members of society.

Simply abandoning them and exiling them from education when they’re difficult fails to satisfy that obligation.

Not only will it lead to further bullying down the track (of the workplace kind that you complain of Nyssa), but it will also swell the ranks of tomorrow’s problematic citizens (drug abuse, crime etc).

But of course all we need do then is lock them all up and throw away the key and teach those lunatic hippy magistrates/judges a lesson about draconianism and then the problem will be solved once and for all.

I’ve great sympathy for teachers who are faced with the problem of misbehaving children, as well as the students that have to put up with them (I’m sure we all experienced bullying at school, really awful) but I think we can find a better solution than just telling the kids to piss off.

simbo simbo 12:11 pm 06 May 07

Aha, thanks for the info.

Another option, it seems to me, is to send troublesome students from the public system into the private system – if the private system wants government funding, they have to be prepared to accept a certain number of “public students” automatically.

Then we can see how well the private system’s much-vaunted “better outcomes” actually work when they can’t just palm their failures back onto the public system…

nyssa76 nyssa76 12:07 pm 06 May 07

simbo in the ACT there are many parents who home school their children. They are routinely checked against the same curriculum outcomes as students who are in school and they can participate in ACTAP testing.

I use to work in that area and registering is simple and cost-free. Home visits are done by a qualified teacher.

There is always the Education Act 2004 which can and does enforce this.

Also, those same kids are the ones who disrupt lessons so that the other 29 kids in the room don’t learn. It’s the lesser of two evils.

Teachers nowdays have semester evaluations. We also have the dreaded Professional Pathways which track our achievements etc throughout the school year. All Pathways are sent to ACTDET and are a mandatory requirement in ACT Govt schools. Pathways encompasses Territory, school and professional outcomes. Teachers have to be signed off on them at the end of the year and demonstrate what they have done to achieve the goals. Those that don’t are place on Pathways to Performance – a last resort.

Enough “insider” info for you?

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