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

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
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childcare_worker childcare_worker 12:25 am 07 May 12

Bullying is everywhere at workplaces and schools and so on.
Name and shaming schools is not the answer.
I work in a private and non private schools and I do see students bully each other which I am very shocked to see

Kerryhemsley Kerryhemsley 11:20 am 19 Dec 11

“it bugs me that in the 80?s the ACT had the best system in the country and we are now close to the wors ( I mwent to Nth Ainslie, Lyneham and Dickson)t; and
it bugs me that super schools are stupid.”

Assuming they are typos, what evidence do you have that ACT has close to the worst education system now?

matt31221 matt31221 7:25 pm 16 Dec 11

lizw said :

matt31221 said :

Hey Daisy24, I am sorry to hear that your daughter is having such a hard time. I can sympathize as I suffer from OCD and apparently was diagnosed with Aspergers as a child – although be warned that Aspergers is diagnosed way to easily these days and your daughter probably only suffers from OCD.

Actually AS girls are very difficult to diagnose. That’s why the ratio of girls diagnosed to boys diagnosed is so low. And that’s why it so hard for them to receive the help they need. Unless you are a psychologist who has worked on this girl’s case, I suggest you keep your opinions on what her diagnosis actually is to yourself. There is nothing more hurtful than to have someone who knows nothing of what’s going on to say there’s no issue. I’ve been there many times with people telling me that there is nothing wrong with my diagnosed daughter.

I do apologise in advance if the following response comes off as negative or offensive because I am not intending it to be, it is just a hard subject to talk about.

I don’t know why you would be ‘hurt’ when someone tells you there is nothing wrong with your daughter, I would be rejoicing! Perhaps you are thinking of yourself instead of your daughters best interest?

I have been though a lot, I have seen a lot of children that have had these supposed diagnosis, and I have experienced elements of the aforementioned disorder for myself. I know quite a few people who are supposed to have Aspergers yet they don’t even exhibit the main symptoms of the disorder! The condition is over diagnosed and I do not need a degree to tell you that (although it is my own personal opinion).

If a relative knows your child very well, and tells you genuinely that there is nothing wrong with them, I’d be at least considering what they said. Not all psychologists/psychiatrists give an accurate diagnosis, and sometimes a diagnosis can be actually harmful to a child as my multiple diagnosies were for me. Sometimes if the diagnosis is correct it can be beneficial in helping the patient deal with there condition but sometimes it is not at all. If you are constantly telling your child there is something wrong with them they are going to believe you – and it does more harm than good. I hope the professional that ‘diagnosed’ your daughter knew what they were doing because there are about 3 psychiatrists in Canberra that should not have medical licences (that I know and have been to). Unfortunately there is still a stigma attached to having a mental illness and it is best to simply keep a secret if you can. Some people that are uneducated on the subject of mental illness may treat you differently if they know, sometimes worse.

And in my defence if you read my post again I was not telling the OP that there was nothing wrong with her daughter – I said that OCD can manifest as having slight Aspergers symptoms when younger (to add, even GAD and hypochondria), and that I believed Aspergers was over diagnosed.

Also I was simply stating that I believe people should be normalized and mainstreamed as much as possible instead of being shoe boxed and institutionalized. I once again speak from experience.

Sorry if you are offended by my posts.

@LSWCHP

Thanks heaps! I am so glad that you have overcome your disorder like you have, I know what you have been through experiencing it myself and you must be commended! I would love to meet you one day as I have actually never met someone that suffers the same disorder since primary school. I am sure more people suffer from it than we know because it is such a private disorder and mine is mostly hidden from people (in person) and they are surprised when I confess it to them.

thanks again..

Mordd Mordd 7:14 pm 16 Dec 11

Stay away from Trinity ChristiaN School in Wanniassa, probably the worst anti bullying policies I have ever seen, even more than a decade since leaving there. If you are condsidering non-government schools give TCS a very wide berth.

shadow boxer shadow boxer 6:36 pm 16 Dec 11

Kerryhemsley said :

[Gold Creek is feral and has huge issues, ask them how many AVO’s have been taken out before enrolling your kids

I can’t believe you waited until #17 post to bag the public school system. Your job in PR for christian schools in Gungahlin is on shaky ground.

Mate, I do not work in or have any affiliation with the education system.

I post a bit about education in the ACT because;

it bugs me that I need to spend $20,000 a year to give my kids a quality education;
it bugs me that dedicated professionals like Gerrybuilt need to plead for help on here because they are not given the tools and resources to do their job
it bugs me that people like the OP find themselves in this awful situation;
it bugs me that in the 80’s the ACT had the best system in the country and we are now close to the wors ( I mwent to Nth Ainslie, Lyneham and Dickson)t; and
it bugs me that super schools are stupid.

I know something about Gold creek and was providing some balance to a post that while well intentioned may not have told the full story.

What is your motivation for posting insults without anything constructive to offer ?

cranky cranky 5:41 pm 16 Dec 11

Perhaps Qbngeek @ #20 has hit the spot.

Make the parents WELL aware, and responsible, for their wretched offsprings actions.

Kan Kan 5:21 pm 16 Dec 11

Every school has its strengths and weaknesses, whether its public or private. Daisy42 has asked for our advice and instead a number of posts have entereed a slanging match. My advice is to look at each school individually. For instance, I know for a fact Daramalan an AS student who has done extremely well at that school. The same can be said for Lyneham High which caters to the needs of gifted special students. I know this because my friends send their kids to these schools and praise them for their ongoing support.

Bad Seed Bad Seed 4:53 pm 16 Dec 11

HenryBG said :

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 second half of your comment is really quite offensive – so you are prepared to use the Catholic system to your advantage for all the great things you say they have offered your child yet the one reason the Catholic system exists to differentiate it from the public system, you trivialise as religious nonsense, when it actually the foundation stone of what you compliment? Why is your daughter not being bullied? Why is she achieving good results – if you look at the schools mission statement, you will see it is because the school bases everything they do on being like Christ.

This is is not way saying that public schools are not moral or ethical or anything like that but that Catholic schools use a different reason for it than public schools do.

YOou don’t have to be religious or a believer to go to a Catholic school (heck most people aren’t these days) but to insult the basis of what it is that is foundational to why your daughter is achieving is a bit much!

(I am no longer a teacher in a Catholic school but have been for many years)

Kerryhemsley Kerryhemsley 4:15 pm 16 Dec 11

[Gold Creek is feral and has huge issues, ask them how many AVO’s have been taken out before enrolling your kids

I can’t believe you waited until #17 post to bag the public school system. Your job in PR for christian schools in Gungahlin is on shaky ground.

Padoof Padoof 3:06 pm 16 Dec 11

shadow boxer said :

padoof said No school in the ACT is untouched by protection orders, NO SCHOOL

Rubbish, do you have a source for this claim

ok, well “NO SCHOOL” is figurative, not literal – the point is to not fall in to the trap of thinking that it can’t happen at your child’s school, public, private, primary or high school.

This is an old report, but gives you a fair indication of school numbers affected:
http://www.canberratimes.com.au/news/local/news/general/bullied-students-cowering-in-courts/1367271.aspx

The points for Daisy to consider are to not be swayed by someone else’s bad experience, to form her own opinion based on the school’s response to her enrolment enquiry and her daughter’s feeling of the school ‘vibe’.

shadow boxer shadow boxer 2:24 pm 16 Dec 11

padoof said No school in the ACT is untouched by protection orders, NO SCHOOL

Rubbish, do you have a source for this claim

Oldmate Oldmate 2:03 pm 16 Dec 11

Learning to deal with bullies is an important part of growing up. While home schooling may seem like a good idea, it certainly won’t help your daughter develop the skills and strategies required for the bullies she will encounter later in life, such as in the workplace.
It’s a tough predicament, and hard to watch as a parent, but will be character building in the long run if she tackles it head on.
After all, you won’t be there to look after her forever.

Padoof Padoof 1:41 pm 16 Dec 11

First of all, good luck to you and your daughter, and well done to you for doing all you can to make her school experience the best it can be.

Some points to consider:
1. No school in the ACT is untouched by protection orders, NO SCHOOL.
2. Where a school is an horrendous experience for one child, another will flourish.

The best advice I could give you would be to spend Monday and Tuesday next week taking your daughter to some schools on your ‘short list’. Be guided by your gut feeling.

My daughter attends Alfred Deakin High and loves it. The school responded well to bullying she was subjected to in year 8. I’m not so sure that it will be the right environment for my younger child, but she has a very different personality to her sister. The school offers academic extension for gifted students, and some students spend time with the students at the Woden School, my experience of the school is that it is one of inclusion.

My older daughter was bullied terribly during her primary school years, she ended up attending 3 primary schools before I found an environment in which she was appreciated; I’ll never forget being told that she needed ‘to be taught how to socialise and be with children like her’ – at Alfred Deakin High she is with children like her and she fits right in.

Is it an option for your daughter to repeat year 7 at a new school? It could be that a start in week 2 or 3 with all the other new kids could be just the right thing.

Please keep us posted in how you get on.

Gerry-Built Gerry-Built 11:40 am 16 Dec 11

As a teacher in High School in the public system, I want to give you one teacher’s perspective on bullying, and the kinds of behaviours we deal with on an almost daily basis… This might give you a bit of insight into why the School “can’t do much more than that” and “nothing changes”… I can tell you that it isn’t just kids that are fed up with bullying, violence and poor behaviour – but we are absolutely powerless to do anything ourselves, and rely almost entirely on a strong student welfare team and school executive to direct behavioural change. DET and the ACT Government are very firm in their resolve that managing behaviour is a school’s responsibility, but they are prepared to promote “strong” policy (and that is about it – there is no other support offered). Although in the words of a DET employee I dealt with on an unrelated matter; “policies are just guidelines”…that…”don’t have to be followed”.

Apart from isolating the bullies in the playground (though most often it seems to be the victim that is isolated from the playground) – in hope the cycle breaks, “discussing the matter” (counselling) with the offender/s (perhaps using Restorative Practices), and following a kaleidoscope of behaviour cards; there is little more a school can do, in reality. If the issue reaches a point of suspending the offender, they have usually had AT LEAST 6 warnings for the same offence. Often, if problems persist, a school may even ask the parents to go to the police; reflecting the inability to deal with issues in the school environment.

(Previous) Minister Barr appears to have turned a deaf ear to any suggestion that the move from public to private education is, at least in part, due to a failure to address problem behaviour, whilst removing services that, at least in part, helped deal with problem behaviours…

It is absolutely appalling to think that a child can do this to another child. I too, was bullied (though nowhere as severely) when at school, but that all changed the day I stood up to the bastards and offered resistance. The last 6 months of my schooling was by far the most painless… It sucks to feel so helpless to assist your own child… Holden Caulfield (@ #1) is right “people suck sometimes”…

I would be really interested to hear some ideas of how people think bullies should be managed in schools; preferably methods that have actual legal merit… I’ll do my best to incorporate some legitimate suggestions into my own classes and school…

From my own experience and anecdotal ‘evidence’, I feel the School I am at, Melba Copland Secondary School, deals with bullying about as well as any Public School could. We have a strong (internal) policy and firm set of procedures which are followed. Teachers are generally informed of any problem relationships, and can monitor and report on these. Our great Student Services (welfare) team usually follow Restorative Practices in dealing with these issues – often involving both sets of parents. I often don’t feel there is enough done for problem behaviours; but I think we are at the limits of what *can* be done. We also have a very good Learning Support team, if your daughter happens to qualify. It is probably worth your time to come in and talk to the Principal or one of the Deputies here, too (6205 6711); assuming this isn’t the current Belconnen school of which you talk :/

markjohnconley markjohnconley 11:36 am 16 Dec 11

Moved to Hughes in ’97, enrolled daughter (and youngest son) at Alfred Deakin. From the second day on my daughter would be crying. She wasn’t wearing the ‘proper’ brand of clothing, and ‘copped’ teasing non-stop from a group of girls. So we withdrew her from ADHS and enrolled her into Queanbeyan High for her year 10, which she survived then went onto Dickson College.
That’s why they brought in UNIFORMS! pity the Canberra public high schools don’t, just gives the bitchy element another excuse, mark

shadow boxer shadow boxer 11:10 am 16 Dec 11

brad301168 said :

hi Daisy42, we have had the same issue with our girl. We had her in a public high school on the northside where she was bullied at school & after school via facebook, texts etc. We then put her in a private school which was even worse, so we then enrolled her back in another public school. This one, turned out to be far worse and we are know having to take legal action against the school itself. After trying another public school we had to finish her education on-line where she recieved very good grades. 4 different schools in 12 months!!!!

The problem with the ACT & NSW education system is that the teachers are powerless, the children know their rights and the principals are no help at all because they tend to turn there backs on bullying issues.

All I can hope for you is that you do find the right school for your child, because we have had no luck ourselves

Really ? unrelated bullying so bad you had to leave four different schools in 12 months. It’s hard to see when you are a parent but I think your problems may be closer to home.

lore lore 10:56 am 16 Dec 11

HenryBG said :

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.

The Catholic Education system is BETTER than public schooling, but they don’t always fix bullying.

I went to a Catholic primary school and high school college (St Clares). I was bullied, and although at times they acted on it, the biggest issue I had was not acted on. The girl in question who was doing the bullying knew the year coordinator outside of school. It was the year coordinator’s job to address issues like bullying, and he essentially did nothing.

However this could have been a unique situation because of the relationship between the girl and the year coordinator- other instances were usually sorted fairly quickly, although I had seen cases where girls were bullied constantly and the school did nothing.

DUB DUB 9:55 am 16 Dec 11

To OP:

I am not sure if they have any good anti-bullying policy but there is The Woden School in Deakin- they seem to cater for students like your daughter, special needs school, give them a call.

Thumper Thumper 9:02 am 16 Dec 11

There is no bullying in ACT government schools.

Andrew Barr said so.

Daisy42 Daisy42 10:26 pm 15 Dec 11

Thank you all very much to everyone for your encouragement, advice, opinions etc etc… We have been so grateful for such a varied amount of responses.. I think this is probably close to a lot of people’s hearts as there are so many kids out there who are struggling like this. For anyone out there dealing with these sorts of issues with their kids, you have our complete understanding and well wishes.
I will be contacting all the school’s you have been recommending. Also, thank you for the advice on private schools & financial options they may have, well worth asking. We were not aware those sort of things were even an option with private schools.
We are going to just have to talk to each school now, and I guess to a large degree, go with our gut feeling on what will be the right school and hope we have made the right decision.. and if that doesn’t work out, we will re-assess things again then.
I think most of all, I have learnt from her that even young people who are going through bullying can still come out of it amazing people.. She sees it for what it is, and is constantly frustrated as she can not understand why people feel they have to treat other people like this, and why they can’t just be accepting of everyone’s differences. I think she is going to grow up into a person who is going to do great things to stop this happening to other people, among other things. She even managed to get an honour student award this year, despite the bullying, as she was determined not to let them stop her from getting good grades.
Thank you all again for your responses, it has been very helpful and heartwarming to see so many people who care & can show understanding. Thank you!!!

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