Trained staff to identify school radicals
Key Education Department staff are being trained to identify signs of radicalism in students in WA public schools.
Shadow education minister Sue Ellery used a parliamentary hearing last week to ask the department what it was doing to help schools deal with students at risk of being “groomed” to commit “terrorism-related activities”.
Director-general Sharyn O’Neill said 14 staff had been trained to identify warning signs that could lead to extremist behaviour.
More staff, mainly psychologists, would receive training early next year.
“I think it’s fair to say it’s very high on our radar,” she said.
Ms O’Neill said the department was working with police to develop a referral process for school-age youth and it was involved in national groups aimed at preventing violent extremism.
“Compared with other States, we haven’t had the kind of instances they have had,” she said.
Outside the hearing, Ms O’Neill said discussions were being held on how to support students who might be susceptible to antisocial or criminal activity.
She said the trained staff would watch for student behaviour that could precede an interest in extremism, such as withdrawing from groups or lack of communication.
“The role of our teachers is always to have an eye to student welfare,” Ms O’Neill said.
“So we don’t make judgments about whether students are becoming radicalised, as people might describe it, but our work is always about providing support for kids who are feeling marginalised or disaffected.”
Shadow education minister Sue Ellery.