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A plan to help reduce violence and fighting in school is leading our kids to failure according to one expert.

Automatic suspensions of students who assault others or instigate a fight is being considered as part of the Western Australian Government’s plan to reduce violence in schools, shares Education Matters.

Earlier this year, Education and Training Minister, Sue Ellery, announced a review of the current policies and procedures in place to prevent and respond to violence in schools, after videos were released showing violent fights in Western Australian schools.

“I am shocked and appalled by some of the violence we have seen in our schools this year and something has to change – we need to get tougher,” said Minister Ellery.

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“The majority of students do the right thing and come to school ready to learn and contribute, but we do not want to continue hearing stories about students or staff being attacked in places that are designed for learning.”

Stakeholders, unions, professional organisations and peak bodies from across the education sector have agreed to be involved in the development of a Violence in Schools Action Plan, to be released later this year for implementation from 2019, to help reduce intentional violence in schools against students and school staff.

The changes being discussed would involve updates to the existing Department of Education’s Student Behaviour policy.

Under the proposed changes, schools would be required to strengthen the processes for a student’s return to school so support is in place to help improve the student’s attitudes and behaviours and achieve a long-term reduction in violence and aggression.

A ‘good standing’ policy in all government schools is also being considered. A student who assaults or instigates a fight with another student would lose their good standing within the school and would not be able to participate in school social activities, such as the school ball or interschool sports competitions. They would able to earn those privileges back by demonstrating positive behaviour.

The final action plan will be developed in consultation with stakeholders and will involve policy, school and community responses with support for students, school support staff, teachers, school leaders and parents.

It will include clear, long-term policies about when students should be suspended or excluded, what a school’s duty of care is and how to manage repeat offenders.

“I’m under no illusion that this is a big issue and it will be impossible to completely eradicate violent incidents, but we must do better. To do that, we need the support of the whole community. These issues do not start and finish with the school bell and schools alone cannot address this,” said Minister Ellery. “We all have a responsibility to teach our young people that violence is never the answer.”

Expert opinion.

But Dr Justin Coulson, psychologist and father of six, believes this will just set kids up to fail.

Dr Justin shared, “I fear that the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to discipline around bullying will fail our most challenged children and lead to worse outcomes.

“The WA Govt is considering automatic suspensions for kids who cause fights in the school yard.

“First, no teenager – particularly those who are disadvantaged or from homes where self-control is not modelled – is going to pause before a fight and think to him/herself, “Gee, we’d better not throw punches or we’ll be suspended.” That’s not how teen brains work. (In fact our punitive approach to crime suggests it’s not how adults work either.) So this approach will be unlikely to reduce assaults at school.

“Second, these kinds of punishments (suspension and not being able to participate in school social activities, such as the school ball or interschool sports competitions) make the ‘instigator’ more self-focused rather than focused on others. They feel justified in their behaviour, and feel like our decision to punish them is unfair. They feel like they’re the victim.

“Third, such a decision ignores the reasons for challenging and violent behaviour. It requires no perspective. It’s inflexible and rigid.

“The trouble is that the best ways to help require time and effort, and too many people are either unwilling to put the time and effort in, or are unable to due to a lack of resources.

“Our kids need stronger relationships. They need a genuine sense of purpose. They should be experiencing a feeling of mastery in their schooling. And they need educators and parents who will partner together to highlight appropriate behaviours and guide them when they get it wrong.”

Share your thoughts below

  • Appropriate behaviour and what is acceptable needs to be taught at home.

    Reply

  • This problem is so out of control that I think any new idea to help change it may be worth a try. I am so worried about sending my kids to school because of bullying,its becoming so scary especially with technology these days.

    Reply

  • This is such a grey area isn’t it

    Reply

  • Not necessarily bullying but some kids will do anything to deliberately get suspended from school – just so they don’t have to go to school. Some even brag about it to their friends or even some relatives who are unlikely to tell the child’s parents

    Reply

  • I personally think teachers need to create an open culture and when there is a report or suspicion of bullying they should intervene with a school councillor, monitor grades and ensure the child isn’t slipping behind to try and work out why this maybe occurring. Young children are an open book and can be taught better behaviours. I know in some instances resources are slim though removing bully’s from main stream and isolating them can have a negative impact and continue a spiral. The schools should involve the parents as part of the journey too and emphasis a zero tolerance to bullying.

    Reply

  • The bullys might have to have their own class but I pity the teacher. At least it would give the other kids time away from them.

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  • We need a lot of wisdom in guiding them when they get it wrong. I agree that the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to discipline around bullying will fail our most challenged children and lead to worse outcomes, but don’t know if it will work if we have to look at each incident individually and decide on an appropriate response.
    Yesterday my son (yr 7) was pushed over and smacked face first on the ground for no reason, other then it was “funny”. He hurt himself and had to cry (yes, embarrassing in front of his friends for a teenager). Would there be time even to study all the dynamics of such an incident ?

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  • im not sure what the appropriate punishment is.

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  • I don’t believe in suspension. The kids just get to stay at home and not go to school! What kind of punishment is that. I think any ‘suspensions’ should be within the school and the child should be in isolation for the suspension period.

    Reply

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