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Seeking advice on High Schools in ACT with good anti-bullying support

By Daisy42 - 15 December 2011 50

Our daughter is in yr 7 this year.  She has Asperger’s Syndrome.  She has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  She is extremely anxious.  She is very depressed.  She is very intellegent.  She is very mature in her thinking about bullying.  She helps protect others when they are getting bullied.  She is a really amazing young girl.  She can see the harm bullying can do and has experienced it first hand for years, just about every single day of her school life.

After struggling for the past year at her current high school, who assured us their anti-bullying policy was fantastic, her introduction to high school began with getting bullied from the first 10 minutes of starting on her first day, with the school taking 5 months to finally do something about that one particular girl.  We have now taken her out of this school for the remainder of the year as she just can’t take anymore. 

She is constantly being bullied, both physically and verbally, during class, in the playground, everywhere.  The school has not done what is needed to protect her.  She is being spat on, pushed into glass windows, having her pencil case shoved down boys pants & thrown back at her, constantly getting picked on because her skin is too pale.. the list goes on.. she may be slightly (or sometimes more obviously) different from the “normal” kids, for want of a better word.. but in no way does she deserve to have this happen to her.   She is NEVER mean to anyone, she just struggles to fit in socially in some situations.

Our problem now is trying to find her another high school in Canberra, as she can no longer return to her current high school.  They are not doing enough, they have had constant contact from us asking them to help, it is usually met with “we can talk to the students again, but we can’t do much more than that” and nothing changes, there has been a whole year now of too much hatred and learnt behaviour from too many students towards her to even think about letting her return and try to fix it anymore.  Enough is enough.  We know the teachers are struggling to manage awful behaviour in classrooms, we understand the very hard job they have, but at some point, our daughter needs help and understanding too and is not getting it, even when it constantly is happening in front of the teachers.

We would appreciate any advice from other people on what may be a good high school for her.  We can’t afford private schools.  She will not be returning to her current school.  We are willing to travel anywhere around Canberra if it means she can be safe and happy.  We live in Belconnen.  Any advice on what schools do actually work with following their anti-bullying policies would be a great start, or ones to avoid also.  We are just so desperate for her to be safe and happy and get the education she used to want, until it all got too much for her.. now she just doesn’t even want to learn or go to school anymore.

We have contacted the Dept of Education, and they have suggested we just try contact all different schools and talk to them, but they can all say they don’t tollerate bullying.  We would love to hear advice from people who actually know what goes on in the schools, parents, students, teachers etc..

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.. thank you for your time in reading this.

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50 Responses to
Seeking advice on High Schools in ACT with good anti-bullying support
Watson 2:37 pm 15 Dec 11

I have heard good things about Catholic schools in similar situations – though not in Canberra.

And I’m very pleased to hear about Gold Greek, because I checked out their website thinking of sending my daughter there when we move to Gungahlin next year and was impressed. An extensive list of services and programs and detailed policy documents, as well as a great sounding curriculum. Large school (as in K-12) that shares some resources with a private school, so presumably more funding for support services for those kids that need it. I’m going to gather some more info from parents with kids there, but I am hopeful so far. I could not send my child to a school that doesn’t care about students being bullied, even if it’s not happening to my own child!

Good luck. It must be heartbreaking but I have heard similar stories with good outcomes in the end, so don’t give up hope.

josquin 2:01 pm 15 Dec 11

maybe homeschooling your daughter if nothing works out in the end?

harvyk1 1:50 pm 15 Dec 11

What the bullies need is a good “pulled into line” by the teachers. Unfortunately this is unlikely to happen (at any school) given that teachers are basically powerless in the class rooms these days, and the bullies know exactly what their “rights” are. It means that any school your daughter goes to she will sadly no doubt get zero protection from bullies.

Maybe the better approach would be to teach your daughter some degree of self defense. Whilst this will no doubt be met with a “violence is not the answer” response by some people, bullies will always pick on someone they feel is weaker than them.

To relate to my own experience in high school, when I was in year 9, a couple of bullies took a liking to me (and not in a good way). After a couple of weeks of it one afternoon I stood up for myself, I didn’t even need to lay a hand on them, yelling “f*** you” and charging straight for them was enough for them to run faster than I think they have ever run before. (I had some martial arts experience behind me which helped with my confidence) Needless to say I never saw them again.

shadow boxer 1:27 pm 15 Dec 11

This must be breaking your heart, have you thought about a smaller school out of town ?

gourmetmumma 12:56 pm 15 Dec 11

Wow Daisy what an awful situation for your child & your family. I have no suggestions re: specific schools as mine are still in Primary, but I do agree that there seem to be better moral/ethical values instilled in Catholic schools compared to public. My kids have been to both, and although we are not practicing Catholics, I like their current school as they teach them a sense of values, and work continuously on the kids having respect for one another. They are dealt with harshly if any form of bullying arises…whether severe bullying or simply kids being mean. For your school to say “we’ve talked to the kids and there’s not much more we can do” is irresponsible & must be frustrating for you.
I also wouldn’t overlook Private schools – many of them have a fee relief scheme where you can be exempt from part or all of the fees, or pay instalments depending on your circumstances. It’s worth a try…you’ve got nothing to lose. Merry Christmas and I hope things work out.

HenryBG 12:36 pm 15 Dec 11

zippyzippy said :

Sorry to hear about your situation, it sounds very stressful. I wonder if the office of the Human Rights Commissioner, who also has a children and young person commissioner, could help?

Nope, she’s too busy making things cushy for crims.

HenryBG 12:33 pm 15 Dec 11

You should try the Catholic Education system. They actually teach children to be nice to each other and will not allow bullying. My daughter isn’t the most social girl in the world, but she’s just finished a wonderful year 7 in a Catholic school where they’ve helped her mature with confidence, and even achieve some very good results in some areas.
I don’t know what she thinks of the religious nonsense they feed her, but as long as she doesn’t take it too seriously it’s got to be better than the moral void that exists in our public schools.

The public school system is completely out-of-control, with the grubs and bogans setting the agenda.

dtc 11:53 am 15 Dec 11

Obviously a bullying policy and bullying practice are very different, plus I’m pretty sure that some parents will feel their school is good because their kid isnt bullied, whereas another kid at the same school will be bullied.

One possibility is Kaleen High. This school runs a fairly large ‘special needs’ unit and while I am not suggesting your child falls into that category, the fact that special needs kids are present in the school can (depending on how you want to interpret it) make your child look ‘more normal’ (if we want to be cold hearted about it) or can simply mean the kids are used to a wide range of personalities, attributes and skills. As such there is less motivation to single out the ‘unusual’ kid – there are so many of them.

Plus the teachers are conscious of ‘protecting’ the special needs kids and know how to deal with/identify the risks of different kids. Dont over estimate the abilities of a stock standard teacher to deal with Aspergers, most have no idea. How the teacher treats the kids (eg sees them as annoying, wont do what they are told, dont pay attention, drama queens etc) influences how the other students then treat that kid.

Cannot comment personally on Kaleen High, but it might be worth a look.

My experience (from school, looking back) is that once a kid is chosen to be the bullied one, its almost impossible to break the cycle. So changing schools is a great idea.

Finally – will the Dept of Education provide any resourcing to the school? I think they are meant to assist with Aspergers children. Not sure if that requirement extends to high schools (it does for primary schools, but good luck getting very far despite that requirement).

lizw 11:36 am 15 Dec 11

My ASD, GAD, OCD daughter is in Year 9 at Gold Creek Senior School. There have been a couple on instances of bullying on the bus she catches to school, but when she and I approached the school, it was dealt with immediately, with the Deputy Principal keeping me informed every step of the way. She also have a great bunch of friends who help her survive the school playground, and are very supportive of her.

She no longer qualifies for funding, but the school and her teachers are working with her best they can, and the results are brilliant. She’s a confident young lady, doing well socially as well as academically. The teachers are just a phone call or email away, and are willing to do all they can to help her.

The Principal is very approachable. It might be worth having a chat to her and the Middle School Deputy (Gungahlin Public School follow the Middle School, Senior School principle, and it’s not a bad way to go).

shirty_bear 11:31 am 15 Dec 11

Sorry to read your story, Daisy – it looks a very difficult situation. Sadly, the school/departmental response you’ve gotten is likely to be standard. The nanny state has legislated away any ability (or maybe just the will) to discipline the kids, so poorly bahaved ones just carry on. The teaching hierarchy will make apologetic noises, but will continue to achieve nothing. Again sadly, I suspect your approach of changing schools until you hit a good one seems to be your best bet. Happily, I have learned from experience that the culture of outwardly similar-looking schools can be very different.

You don’t name your current school. This would at least prevent it being suggested as an alternative.
(Part of me wants to speculate it is Kingsford Smith, as it has an established track record of both misbehaving students and ineffectual controls.)

If the school in question is Belconnen High, then disregard the following (as our experiences will have been very different):
My eldest (son) is in Yr 8 at Belco High. In his final year of primary school, the teachers seemed determined to scare the kids witless with talk of bullying, cyber-bullying, sexual harrassment and torrential homework loads. None of which eventuated. Even having been coached to look for these things (seek and you shall find), we have only had a couple of trivial incidents occur e.g. someone gets called a dick, and it gets reported home as sexual harrassment. The whole experience has been completely favourable. But since we’ve not hit any issues, I can’t speak to the school’s ability to resolve them.

Actually talking to the Principals isn’t a bad idea; you can gauge which ones are reading from the Govt playbook (they all sound the same, say the same things, and will ultimately likely do the same amount of nothing) versus those which are thinking for themselves. Won’t guarantee action, but should improve your chances.

Widdershins 11:05 am 15 Dec 11

Sorry to hear this. Merici College is excellent at dealing with bullying and lots of parents send their kids there after school-to-school-to-school roundabouts. Yes they are private, but I understand they will reduce (even waive?) fees if need is shown. I think people just don’t ask about the money side of things. Call them and speak to someone about your daughter – you have nothing to lose at least.

zippyzippy 10:45 am 15 Dec 11

Sorry to hear about your situation, it sounds very stressful. I wonder if the office of the Human Rights Commissioner, who also has a children and young person commissioner, could help? Also I saw that the Greens introuduced some anti-bullying legislation recently; maybe your local member could try and help from political side?

colourful sydney rac 10:43 am 15 Dec 11

Stay away from Kingsford Smith. Stay well away.

Alicia_Maher 10:37 am 15 Dec 11

I went to Telopea Park, which is on the southside, on the academic side its a great school, but I would not recomend it because I was bullied when i went there and they did nothing about it. The problem with bullying is your going to find it no matter what school she goes too.. I would recomend private schools if you can afford it!

Holden Caulfield 10:30 am 15 Dec 11

Tough gig Daisy42, I can’t offer anything other than my best wishes and hope you find a satisfactory solution.

People suck sometimes.

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