Violence in Schools: A Perspective
The issue of violent threats in their various forms is one I believe needing careful address. It’s the matter of “issue” rather than “individual incident” that needs careful consideration. The matter is not new but has been ongoing over time.
From time to time the system and various support professional organisations have looked at the matter and considered process that might be taken into account when reacting to matters of threat. That to me is part of the problem; our system has been “reactive” rather than taking a proactive role in engaging the matter. This leaves teachers, support staff and school leadership teams hanging tentatively on what might unfold on this issue in future terms.
Reasons for Inaction
Threat in its various forms is not new. However, responding to the matter seems to be one that causes embarrassment. Often Principals and staff members feel that to air issues occurring within the school organisations is tantamount to a profession of weakness. There seems to be a preference to manage within, making sure that word about problems does not get out. Over time there have been assaults levied against Principals and staff members where it seems that departmental management is to mute the issue almost in some sort of “we are guilty because it happened” fashion. The truth is that school leaders and staff members are not guilty because violence should be off the agenda.
That may be added to or contextualised by the fact that staff (from support staff through to Principal) might feel shame if the matter is aired. It could be conceived that to be on the receiving end of violence types the victim as a weakling. Along the same lines, it could be that staff of the school where an incident has occurred, believe reporting could frighten off potential enrollees and/or encourage the departure of enrolled families: “X school is unsafe so we won’t enroll” or “Y school’s staff are vulnerable so better we leave”.
Prognostications have to be for the birds if staff security is threatened. I think that issues of this nature have to be put right out into the public domain and addressed with responsible but justified professional aggression. “How dare they” ought to apply. The response being developed needs to have full system support and it ought not to be that recommendations on process point and direct the whole matter back to schools at the individual level to manage.
Members of student and parent communities do not have the right to inflict themselves upon teachers and other staff members in a violent, threatening or intimidating manner. Staff and principals deserve full government and departmental support against this sort of behaviour all the way to action through court processes. An “under the carpet” response is not acceptable.
Maybe during my time as a school educator I was lucky in not having these sorts of things thrust against me personally. I can promise that assaults directed toward my staff or myself would have been most vigorously pursued through courts.
No, I would not have felt weak all guilty about taking these actions because staff members and school principals deserve to be respected and protected.
Understanding matters confronting children
At the same time, it is important that teachers, support staff and others involved with children, explore issues carefully so that matters that could lead to student reaction are not misinterpreted. Careful and empathetic investigation is necessary.
I hope that the issue going forward is addressed in an appropriate responsive and responsible manner. To date, this has not necessarily been the case. Plans to tackle the issue have been developed ad infinitum. All those plans up until now seem to have a common thread, that being the return of the issue to schools to manage through ‘interpretation’ of these successive policies.
In matters of school violence, talking and policy planning time is over. When Chief Minister, Terry Mills stated that all matters of staff school assault should be referred to the police for action and legal pursuit. I couldn’t agree more and hope that the Giles Government makes this a number one educational priority.
May 6 2013
PO Box 42201
CASUARINA NT 0811
Phone 0407 637 782