The Liberal Nationals last week announced its school anti-bullying policy, which is based on the successful Alannah & Madelaine Foundation anti-bullying program – and it’s a policy I strongly support to replace the controversial and ideological Safe Schools Program.
The Safe Schools Program has a strong focus on promoting sexual diversity and such things as gender fluidity. It’s come under much criticism from parents for providing resources covering things like cross dressing and advising students it is ok to use either the either the boys’ or girls’ toilets, regardless of gender.
Common feedback I have received is that while we certainly need to address the high rates of bullying in our LGBTI community, the current program’s resources take it too far and we should simply be promoting respect for all, regardless of gender, religion, sexuality, race, ethnicity, family circumstances and appearance.
Accordingly, the replacement program adds a fourth “R” – respect – to what is traditionally known as the three “R’s” of education – reading writing and arithmetic.
In line with the Alannah & Madelaine Foundation program, it is based on four foundations - Information, Intervention, Prevention and Communication.
Under a three strike policy, it will back school principals who make the tough calls on serial bullies who put the safety and welfare of students at risk. This means bureaucrats cannot overturn a Principal’s decision, which has occurred previously.
It will also recognise and reward students who stand up for other children who are being bullied. It’s important to create a culture at schools where this sort of courage and integrity is recognised.
The other key point is to assist and support bullies to reform their behaviours.
According to a 2018 PwC Australia analysis commissioned by the Alannah & Madeline Foundation, almost 25% of Victorian school students are bullied at some stage during their time in school.
That’s a staggering 228,000 Victorian students bullied each year. Children who are victims of school bullying often suffer from self-esteem and confidence issues, behavioural problems and their ability to concentrate and perform at school is compromised.
In some tragic cases, it can cause lifelong mental health issues and lead to self-harm and suicide.
A Liberal Nationals Government will establish within the Department of Education - using current resources within the department’s 2,900 staff - a School Safety Unit responsible for managing the rollout of the program across all government schools in partnership with the Alannah & Madeline Foundation.
Independent schools can choose to opt-in to the program, at their discretion.
This program will fund eighteen professional development sessions run by the Alannah & Madeline Foundation for school leaders throughout the state.
These information sessions will help empower teachers to recognise, identify, respond and prevent bullying behaviour as when it comes to victims of school bullying, teachers are often the ‘first responders’.
That’s why a key part of these information sessions with school leaders is to help teachers recognise when there are noticeable and unexplained changes in student behaviour or students are clearly distressed.
Some of those signs are where students may suddenly change their social group, lose confidence, experiencing a dramatic fall in academic results or struggling to cope with normal routines.
These information sessions will be based off the latest cutting-edge research by the Alannah & Madeline Foundation National Centre Against Bullying.
Bullying behaviour is constantly evolving and to be effective, any anti-bullying program must be kept up to date.
The program will continue the Alannah & Madeline Foundation’s tried, tested and true eSmart Program, which is an interactive online resource to teach children to be careful in their use of the internet and be aware of cyberbullying on social media.
If we are going to be serious about taking a zero tolerance approach to bullying in schools, there has to be a partnership between parents, teachers and students.
Each school in the program will receive two training workshops every year, one for parents and teachers, and the other for students.
Today’s school bullies are tomorrow’s workplace bullies, so in school is where this must start. In conjunction with our previously announced police in schools policy, this program will have effective on the ground results.
Unlike the Andrews Labor Government’s Safe Schools program, we will conduct professional workshops with teachers, parents and students in order to equip teachers, parents and students with hands-on strategies to tackle bullying.
After being scrapped in NSW by the Liberal Nationals, even NSW Labor leader Luke Foley has now acknowledged that Safe Schools is damaging and ideological and declared it has no place in schools.
If our communities are to be at their best, then it starts with people respecting one another and this the very basis of this program.
Wednesday, July 25, 2018