Violence towards staff: Is your school compromising safety?
Schools need to have viable control measures in place to stop violence against staff, writes IEUA-QNT Assistant Secretary/Treasurer Paul Giles.
Violence not only carries the immediate risk of injury to staff and other members of the school community, but also the very real risk of work, health and safety claims, or legal claims, against the school.
Policies and procedures need to be in place, but these need to be accompanied by a culture of professional respect for teachers on behalf of employers and the wider community.
Staff getting hurt
A recent article in The Courier Mail (July 2018) revealed information from the government sector claiming that between July 2017 and July 2018 there had been 359 workers compensation claims lodged by public school staff in relation to assault.
This was an increase of 55 incidents reported during the previous financial year.
While these statistics are exclusive to the government sector, many members would be aware that the issue in the non-government sector is also far from being resolved.
For our Principal members, the issue of student and parent violence is extremely prevalent.
The Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey (2018) noted that principals and deputy principals are increasingly being subjected to violence, with:
• 44% of Principals reporting receiving verbal threats of violence (predominantly from parents and students);
• 34% reporting being victims of bullying (with parents the most common bullies); and
• 36% reporting being victims of physical violence (primarily at the hands of students).
Secondary school principals received the most threats, with approximately one in two government school principals, one in three Catholic school principals and one in eight to 12 independent school principals threatened each year.
Addressing the culture One element of addressing this violence against staff in schools is to have community-wide acknowledgement that school employees are professionals and should be treated with respect.
This professional standing needs to be acknowledged at both community and government levels so that the expertise and effectiveness of educators is valued.
When the community and government publicly and genuinely acknowledge and respect educators, then a flow-on respect in interaction will occur.
Schools and the staff within schools should be seen as a community asset – to be lauded and supported.
Does your school have an anti-violence policy?
Hand-in-hand with whole of community acknowledgement of schools and educators are internal structures to deal with unacceptable behaviour towards school staff.
Schools and employers within the education sector need to have policies and practices that deal with violence towards school staff.
Our union has long had a clear policy relating to student violence.
This can be read in full here.
The general principles of this policy are:
• Each employer should develop and maintain a policy to deal with violence by students against staff.
• Violent behaviour, whether physical or verbal, against any school staff member should not be accepted.
• As assault is a criminal offence, any staff member subjected to violence has the legal right to report the matter to police, without the permission of the principal.
There is a real need for schools to positively promote duty of care for their employees and employee welfare.
Policies and practices regarding appropriate and acceptable behaviour need to be available and known by students, parents and staff and these same policies need to be implemented and enacted in cases of unacceptable behaviour.
If members believe their school’s anti-violence policy is inadequate, they can contact our union on FREECALL 1800 177 937 for further advice in bringing this issue to their employer's attention.
Members who have experienced violence at school should contact our union immediately.