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DG's View

16 March 2010

Our obligation to tackle bullying and violence

Recently there has been regular media coverage of the separate but related issues of bullying and violence in schools.

The minute's silence many schools observed at the start of this month was a sombre reminder of two recent tragedies. At St Patrick's College, Shorncliffe, student Elliott Fletcher lost his life in an incident involving a knife. Six months earlier, New South Wales student Jai Morcom died of injuries sustained in a Mullumbimby schoolyard fight.

Our primary goal as teachers and parents is to provide a safe environment in which our children can learn, grow - and live.

Both bullying and violence can have serious long term effects on those who are affected. It's up to us to do everything in our power to keep students in our schools safe.

The Department of Education and Training continues to expand the implementation of Schoolwide Positive Behaviour Support (SWBPS) which was noted by Dr Ken Rigby in his recent report Enhancing Responses to Bullying in Queensland Schools (new window) [an error occurred while processing this directive] Adobe PDF document as having features helpful to counter bullying and other problem behaviours.

The Rigby report itself, prepared for the State Government, offers a foundation on which future responses to bullying can be built.

Dr Rigby praised "the industry, dedication and sheer inventiveness of what was being done to address bullying" in schools he visited while compiling his report.

He noted schools and staff had a clear idea of the definition of bullying, were receptive to new ideas, and employed a range of curriculum activities and programs to promote healthy, pro-social behaviour.

However, he also identified areas for improvement, notably more systematic evaluation of the outcomes of interventions. There can be no doubt there is room for improvement.

One immediate response to Dr Rigby's report has been the formation of the Queensland Schools Alliance Against Violence (QSAAV).

The Alliance brings together State, Catholic and independent schools to work together against bullying and violence in schools and seek practical solutions.

The Alliance will make recommendations to the Government and oversee their implementation in Queensland schools. As a member, the Department will work with a range of stakeholders to ensure the highest level of safety in all Queensland schools.

Dr Rigby says earlier research shows reducing bullying in schools is far from easy and decreases have generally been modest.

Nevertheless, we must do everything in our power to reduce bullying and violence for the sake of all our students.