Aussie PM's stance on school bullies triggers political row

19th March 2010 at 00:00
Opposition leader says Premier's comments could encourage vigilantism among parents

Australia's labour Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has got into political hot water over his attitude to school bullying, the ABC Premium News (Australia) reports.

Mr Rudd said it was appropriate for the parents of bullying victims to contact the families of bullies after they have tried other measures with the school.

But Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said such comments could encourage vigilante behaviour among parents.

Child psychologists also warned that the comments could exacerbate the problem.

Mr Abbott said: "I think Kevin Rudd has completely missed the point, which is that there should not be bullying in schools, and teachers and the principal should make sure there is no culture of bullying in schools. This idea that parents should resort to vigilantism - that it's up to parents to sort out problems in the playground - is just crackers."

But the Australian Government's Primary Principals Association agrees that parents should take some responsibility for their children's behaviour at school.

"The PM has a perfect right to make these sort of statements," said Norm Hart, the body's president. "Parents should take responsibility for parenting. Schools are a part of their community and the families that make them up are the greatest influence on the schools. You can't say, `This is an issue for home and this is an issue for school.'"

Mr Hart said it was better for parents to contact the school, rather than each other, as a way to settle playground disputes.

"I don't think (parents calling each other) does work, because in the end, if it is a problem happening at school, that is where it has to be fixed," he said.

"What you don't want happening is the problem exacerbating into a family feud. I am not sure it is a good strategy."

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard told Channel Nine she could see where the PM was coming from. "What he's saying is just every kind of dad's reaction - if your child was being bullied, yeah, pick up the phone, have a respectful conversation with the other parents to see if you can sort it out," she said.

"The worst thing would be for parents to be bullying each other when they're trying to teach their kids (not to) bully other kids at school."

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