Page 721 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 8 March 2005
In addition to specific programs to address bullying, ACT government schools use educational experiences across the curriculum to address issues such as conflict resolution, rule setting, and responsibilities as a community member. Helping students to understand the nature of relationships and the outcomes and impacts of violence within relationships is a critical element of any antiviolence program. Students are taught to respect themselves and each other, to form healthy relationships, to understand appropriate behaviour, and to know how to get help when things go wrong. In this way, our schools are teaching students vital skills on how to interact with others, not only at school but also throughout their lives.
Teacher professional development is also an important part of helping schools to address bullying and harassment. The department of education views it as an important priority to ensure teachers have the tools they need to reduce bullying and to effectively address incidents when they occur. Teachers are provided with and share strategies to assist students with challenging behaviours to counter harassment and discrimination. They are given training in interviewing students to investigate and resolve complaints and support for related matters of occupational health and safety.
For example, a series of workshops in relation to the national safe schools framework will give teachers skills in negotiating difficult conversations with parents and colleagues and in crisis communications for de-escalating incidents with students. Programs such as Mindmatters, a mental health initiative, aim to enhance the capacity of schools to build environments where students and staff feel safe, valued and engaged.
I would now like to return to the matter of the irresponsibility of the recent misinformation and scapegoating we have seen in the media and in this Assembly in relation to this serious issue. I do not need to remind members that bullying and harassment have as their basis the abuse of power; yet I am saddened that recent comments by Mrs Dunne in the media and the Assembly, rather than making a useful contribution to this issue, have been yet another slur on ACT government schools.
She uses words such as “environment of retribution”. That is appalling. These are just thinly veiled attacks on school principals, school faculties and, of course, the minister. Mrs Dunne ought to know that bullying is present everywhere in society, including in schools, both government and non-government, and it is time she stopped bullying the 96 ACT government schools, their principals and teachers, and the school communities.
Other elements of the matters Mrs Dunne has raised in the media recently are even more worrying. On 21 February, in a release entitled “School toilet beatings—government must act”, Mrs Dunne quite clearly lets the media opportunity seriously cloud her judgment. Mrs Dunne clearly failed to consider for a single moment the ease with which the children her release refers to could be identified. That was a shameful act. For both the alleged perpetrator and the victim, it was a serious violation of their privacy—the privacy of two young children.
Likewise, the allegations Mrs Dunne levelled at teachers at the school were nothing short of disgraceful. To exacerbate all of this, the WIN news story that followed on from Mrs Dunne’s media release falsely named the Charnwood primary school. It was not