Vi­o­lence Against Teach­ers

Vi­o­lent at­tacks against teach­ers are on the rise in some States, lead­ing to re­newed efforts to pro­tect ed­u­ca­tors.

The Australian Education Reporter - - CONTENTS - LIONEL CRANENBURGH

“Par­ents need to dis­cuss their griev­ances with teach­ers and school prin­ci­pals in a way that is re­spect­ful.”

THE in­ves­ti­ga­tion this year by the Aus­tralian Ed­u­ca­tion Reporter fol­lows yearly re­search by the Aus­tralian Catholic Univer­sity (ACU) since 2011. ACU re­searchers found that 36 per cent of 1580 school lead­ers re­ported be­ing vic­tims of phys­i­cal vi­o­lence, mainly from stu­dents, and 44 per cent re­ceived ver­bal threats.

In South Aus­tralia there was an in­crease in acts of vi­o­lence against staff, from 789 in 2016 to 846 in 2017 – seven of which were com­mit­ted by par­ents.

Ms Pam Kent, Di­rec­tor of Peo­ple and Cul­ture and for­mer chair­per­son of the South Aus­tralia Pri­mary Prin­ci­pals As­so­ci­a­tion, de­scribed the trend as “wor­ry­ing” but also sug­gested that it could re­flect height­ened aware­ness by schools to re­port in­ci­dents.

“It is also a symp­tom of pres­sures that some fam­i­lies are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing in so­ci­ety to­day,” she said.

“Par­ents need to dis­cuss their griev­ances with teach­ers and school prin­ci­pals in a way that is re­spect­ful and not speak dis­re­spect­fully of the teacher in front of the child as it could have an ad­verse effect.”

She said that teach­ers and an­cil­lary staff in South Aus­tralia had ac­cess to de-es­ca­la­tion train­ing and the Part­ner­ships, Schools and Pre-schools cor­po­rate divi­sion pro­vided ad­vice to sup­port schools in han­dling cases of vi­o­lence.

She said that teach­ers who chose teach­ing as a career should see that vi­o­lence was an ex­cep­tion and not the norm.

Ms Kent said that teach­ers were re­silient and it was her ex­pe­ri­ence that very few quit be­cause of vi­o­lence.

WA teach­ers threat­ened in­dus­trial ac­tion at the start of the school year, with fig­ures ob­tained by the West Aus­tralian showing that 595 phys­i­cal in­ci­dents re­ported in 2017 in­volved stu­dents against teach­ers, com­pared with 444 in 2015 and 165 in 2014.

State School Teach­ers Union pres­i­dent Pat Byrne said that mem­bers wanted stu­dent vi­o­lence against teach­ers to be classed as an oc­cu­pa­tional safety and health is­sue.

Ms Byrne told Perth Now that a regis­ter of as­saults on teach­ers would al­low the Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment to track the lo­ca­tion, fre­quency and na­ture of at­tacks.

Deputy Di­rec­tor-gen­eral of Schools, Stephen Bax­ter, told The Aus­tralian Ed­u­ca­tion Reporter that pub­lic schools were very safe and the ma­jor­ity of its 300,000-plus stu­dents were well-be­haved.

Mr Bax­ter said some in­ci­dents in­volved stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties who may not be aware of their ac­tions, but that the Depart­ment would sup­port the teacher.

“Par­ents are a key to a child’s be­hav­iour as mod­er­at­ing be­hav­iour be­gins at home and we rely on par­ents and oth­ers in the com­mu­nity to re­in­force pos­i­tive be­hav­iour mes­sages,” he said.

To help schools man­age stu­dent be­hav­iour there were 13 En­gage­ment Cen­tres across WA.

In NSW schools, term 4 2016 data showed

295 vi­o­lent at­tack in­ci­dents com­pared with

186 for the same time in 2015, based on fig­ures from 66 prin­ci­pals’ net­works.

The per­cent­age is rel­a­tively small for ap­prox­i­mately 2200 schools and 790,000-plus stu­dents.

NSW has a ded­i­cated Health and Safety Di­rec­torate that pro­vides spe­cial­ist in­jury man­age­ment and work, health and safety ser­vices and sup­port.

A spokesper­son for the NSW Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion said the Depart­ment was cur­rently re­view­ing its crime pre­ven­tion pro­gram in schools with NSW police to im­prove its in­ci­dent re­sponse.

When in­ci­dents oc­curred the Depart­ment’s In­ci­dent Sup­port Unit that in­cluded sec­onded police of­fi­cers co­or­di­nated police sup­port and pro­vided im­me­di­ate ad­vice to schools.

The In­ci­dent Re­port and Sup­port Hot­line was avail­able to as­sist prin­ci­pals at all hours.

“Vi­o­lence and anti-so­cial be­hav­iour are not tol­er­ated at school and any stu­dent vi­o­lence or crim­i­nal be­hav­iour at school is sub­ject to the depart­ment’s dis­ci­pline pol­icy and par­ents or carer will be no­ti­fied,” the spokesper­son said.

Find­ings of the NSW Justice Depart­ment into school vi­o­lence showed that causes were poor su­per­vi­sion by par­ents, prob­lems in the fam­ily and in­abil­ity to cope with the cur­ricu­lum; con­trary to the myth that it was caused by the school environment.

A Tasmanian Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion spokesman said that the depart­ment took a “holis­tic ap­proach” to bul­ly­ing or vi­o­lent be­hav­iour.

Data shows that in 2017 vi­o­lence or ag­gres­sion against teach­ers af­fected 3.71 per­cent of the es­ti­mated 4491 teach­ers com­pared with 3.54 per­cent in 2016.

“Our teach­ers and staff have ac­cess to a wide range of pro­fes­sional learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties as well as pro­fes­sional sup­port staff in­clud­ing psy­chol­o­gists and so­cial work­ers,” the spokesper­son said.

Schools were sup­ported through the Re­spect­ful Schools Sup­port Team.

Changes to the re­cent re­view of Tasmania’s Ed­u­ca­tion Act and leg­isla­tive con­di­tions as­sisted schools to sup­port stu­dents and their fam­i­lies where chil­dren posed be­havioural risks to them­selves or oth­ers.

Tasmanian schools held a week-long pro­gram in March un­der the theme “Imag­ine a World Free From Bul­ly­ing” to sup­port the Na­tional Day of Ac­tion on March 16 against bul­ly­ing and vi­o­lence.

The North­ern Ter­ri­tory Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment said that there were 521 in­ci­dents of vi­o­lence against teach­ers and cor­po­rate of­fi­cers in 2016-2017. A re­port by the ABC on vi­o­lence in NT schools showed an in­crease from 37 in 2012, to 253 in 2015.

Ac­cord­ing to a 2018 re­port by SBS there were al­most 1850 re­ported in­ci­dents of as­sault or ag­gres­sive be­hav­iour on staff or fel­low stu­dents dur­ing the 2017 school year in Vic­to­rian pub­lic schools.

It has led to more strin­gent re­port­ing re­quire­ments, train­ing for re­gional of­fice staff to fo­cus on the is­sue and de­liver ad­di­tional sup­port. The State Govern­ment an­nounced a $9 mil­lion safety and se­cu­rity pack­age for schools, and more men­tal health sup­port in the sec­tor.

A Queens­land Teach­ers Union spokesman said that more ed­u­ca­tors com­ing for­ward to re­port in­ci­dents showed a pos­i­tive shift in at­ti­tudes.

“Oth­er­wise the sys­tem is not aware that they’re happening and that is a real con­cern,” he said.

In short, we need to give greater vis­i­bil­ity to vi­o­lence against our teach­ers.

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