Tuesday, March 9, 2010

when it's only a matter of time

Dad claims bullying culture at slain boy's school

By Charlotte Glennie

A Brisbane Catholic boys' school where a 12-year-old was stabbed to death is turning a blind eye to bullying, according to a father whose four boys all attended the school.

Schoolboy Elliott Fletcher died last month after being stabbed at St Patrick's College. A 13-year-old boy is in custody after being charged with his murder.

Now the father of another pupil has said his son was also attacked at the college, by a different schoolboy, just days before Elliott Fletcher's death.

'John' is the father of four boys who have studied at St Patrick's College over the past seven years. The ABC has agreed to protect his identity.

Two of his sons graduated from the school and John said he withdrew the other two boys nearly four weeks ago after his 15-year-old son was attacked and knocked unconscious in early February.

"My son was attacked by another child outside one of the classes he'd been leaving," John said.

"The boy jumped on his back, I believe. The boy then grabbed him in a headlock and dragged him about three metres and shoved him into a steel fence. He was knocked unconscious. He doesn't remember anything for about 10 minutes."

John says he is unhappy about the way the incident was handled. "They'd already talked to the other child first and made a decision that my child was at fault," he said. "There was really no medical attention or no duty of care shown at that stage towards my son, given the fact that he was knocked unconscious and concussed.

"He then spent the next eight hours in the hospital under observation and from there he had a week off school. We believed it was safer for him not to be there."

John said he complained by phone three times to the school and twice by email, but he was told there could be no guarantee of his son's safety. So the next week he decided to remove both his boys from the school.

"I got to the stage where I really believed that they were not looking after my children, they were not going to ensure their safety," he said. "So on the [morning] of [February 12] I advised the school that we were no longer going to attend the school.

"The thing that did annoy me was that the other boy was not given any disciplinary action against him. He appeared to be exonerated and left to wander around the school as free as he liked. And that worried me for my child's safety."

John says he is confident his son did nothing to provoke the attack. Days later, on February 15, Elliott Fletcher was stabbed to death.

"I was actually physically sick," John said. "It's something that just shouldn't have happened. "Going through what I believe has happened to my own son, duty of care is something that the school really needs to be responsible for.

"If the bullying is managed and the people that do the bullying is managed then a lot of these issues may not happen in the future."

The ABC has also seen a letter reportedly written by a parent of two children at St Patrick's.

The writer says: "There is a culture and ethos of keep the students in the school, even though these boys intimidate, bully students, staff and even parents."

St Patrick's principal Dr Michael Carroll would not be interviewed, but released a statement. "It is the College's position not to publicly respond to allegations, especially those raised anonymously," the statement said.

"Bullying has no place at St Patrick's College and the college enforces a strict anti-bullying policy. The school encourages any parent with concerns about bullying to contact the college directly."

The Queensland Catholic Education Commission has declined to comment.

I bet they have.

1 comment:

  1. This is so similar to workplace bullying - only about 4% of workplace bullies every receive consequences. Why is this? Because most employers don't know how to respond to allegations of bullying, and when they do find enough evidence - they don't know what to do next. So most victims of workplace bullying actually have to leave their employment - many of those victims have long term health issues as a consequence of prolonged bullying. And of course, some employees even take their own lives as a result of terrible workplace bullying.

    St Patrick's College clearly have not resolved anything. They need a good open and transparent process when dealing with bullying allegations and they need to keep all parties informed at all times.

    We have to stop colluding with bullying - because we are then part of the problem and not part of the solution.

    Linda Guirey
    The 'Marbles Expert'