List tags potential troublemakers

Geoff Maslen

AUSTRALIA. The New South Wales government has introduced a new scheme to counter violence at school. For the first time in Australia, the names of potentially violent students will be recorded on a centralised list and the students monitored throughout their school lives.

Secondary school principals have been ordered by state education minister John Aquilina to provide the names of students. Lists of violent children moving from primary to secondary school must be compiled before the new school term starts next year.

Students who disrupt, attack or threaten teachers or other students will be isolated in specialist centres that will be set up by the Education Department.

Teachers will be guaranteed protection under "apprehended violence orders" if they are abused or threatened in class.

After a high school teacher was stabbed by a student in October, Mr Aquilina and the New South Wales Teachers' Federation agreed the measures.

But critics say the latest moves to curb violence by drawing up lists of names will only stigmatise students and do little to address the real problem of why they behave the way they do.

A review of current Education Department policies for students with emotional or behavioural disorders is planned.

In the largest survey undertaken in Australia of school violence, one child in seven reported being bullied at least once a week. In some schools the figure was one in four. The study involved 15,000 students in South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland.

The findings suggest that up to 500,000 of Australia's three million schoolchildren could be being bullied every week.

In a follow-up study of more than 400 students the researchers found that 91 per cent of the youngsters surveyed had witnessed bullying at school but many felt powerless to stop it. Australian children were learning to be callous about what they are seeing, the researchers said.

They said this "bystander effect" was disturbing because children were learning that they cannot control their environment or change it.

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