Violence hits new high in schools
VIOLENCE became increasingly common in public schools in just three years and teachers who became targets were hospitalised, according to a new report which catalogues the worst incidents.
But, despite schoolyard violence spiking by two-thirds between 2015 and 2017, the number of students expelled fell over the same period and suspensions remained close to unchanged.
The violence is exposed in a Safety and Security Directorate compilation of incident reports made by school principals to the Department of Education.
Fisticuffs was replaced by knives in several incidents, including when one student in W Wagga Wagga was stabbed after they allegedly “accident tally pushed” their attacker in July 2017.
In the same month, a teacher on playground duty in Chittaway Bay had to convince an eight-year-old boy from Berkeley Vale to hand over a knife he was holding to his schoolmate’s throat, and a student at a school in Holroyd pulled a knife out of their pants when they became angry about the outcome of a game.
The most violent schools were in Sydney’s southwest, at suburbs such as Macquarie Fields, Glenfield and Casula.
Teachers who intervened to quell violence regularly required hospitalisation and counselling. A teacher from a school near Fairfield was last year “punched and kicked violently” after they stepped in to stop a fight.
Three staff at a school near Gosford were last year treated for physical and psychological injuries after a student went on a destructive rampage, punched and bit their class teacher, then grabbed a knife and swung it wildly.
Other incidents included: A TEACHER taken to hospital in an ambulance after a student punched them in the back at a school in the Liverpool region in August 2017. A PRINCIPAL and assistant principal from a Mid North Coast school both hit by projectiles by a student throwing scissors and kicking, biting and scratching in November 2017. A SCHOOL going into lockdown when two students from near Wagga Wagga lit a fire in July 2017, with one later roaming the campus with a knife.
Head of the NSW Secondary Principals’ Council Chris Presland said the Department of Education and NSW Teachers Federation cover themselves by telling teachers they don’t have to step in to protect students, but in reality teachers won’t stand idly by.
“The department and union cover themselves, policy wise, but if the teacher’s Johnny on the spot, they’re not going to let violence continue,” Mr Presland said. “Every principal says the same thing to teachers, which is ‘we don’t expect you to endanger yourself physically’, but of course they get hurt because they won’t stand back and watch someone get hurt.”
According to Mr Presland, the increase in violence and reduction in expulsions is not a sign teachers are going soft on violence, rather it’s that more principals are reporting minor instances of violence such as threatening and intimidating behaviour that doesn’t warrant being kicked out of school.
The Department of Education says schools are safe, despite the increase in violence.
“To put the low number of incidents into context, there were 1150 incident reports in 2017 for approximately 800,000 students across more than 2200 public schools,” a department spokesman said.