Monday, March 15, 2010

what price one's safety?

Bullying victim wins $290,000 payout
From the Herald Sun

A TEENAGE girl has won one of Victoria's biggest payouts for bullying at school after years of harassment left her a physical and emotional wreck.

The $290,000 compensation payout by the Education Department came in an out-of-court settlement approved by the Supreme Court.

After one incident the school administrator asked the victim's parents to come and collect her as they could not guarantee her safety.

Between 2006 and 2007, the girl's tormentors spat at her, put chewing gum in her hair, threw chairs at her and emptied her locker across the floor.

The last straw came when one of the bullies threatened to shoot her, prompting her family to move from Kerang.

In her Supreme Court claim the girl's injuries were detailed as psychological disturbance, panic disorder, insomnia, an eating disorder, stress-related psoriasis and suicidal thoughts.

An expert estimated that her psychiatric injury exceeded 10 per cent.

Solicitor Kim Bainbridge, of Garden & Green Lawyers of Swan Hill, said the payout sent a clear message to schools that they have a duty to protect students from bullying.

He said the parents pleaded with the school principal to protect their daughter, and held regular discussions with teachers and the school chaplain.

But the school failed to heed the complaints and did not have established practices to deal with bullying or to discipline the perpetrators.

"The cost, emotionally and financially, on the family has been horrific," Mr Bainbridge said.

"It got to the stage where her parents had to drive her to and from school, pick her up each lunchtime and drive her back from school after lunch.

"There were serious threats to her safety, her friends were threatened and she endured 18 months of verbal and physical abuse.

"Her parents noticed dramatic changes to their daughter's behaviour and personality, and eventually she revealed the full extent of the bullying."

The girl was so traumatised the Herald Sun has chosen not to name her.

Mr Bainbridge said even after she moved to another school the abuse continued through email and social networking sites.

There was no indication of why the girl, now 17, became a target for the bullies, he said.

He said the parents simply ran out of options and were forced to move.

any thoughts? aside from the inept handling of this by the school I'm more intrigued by another question: what is considered a 'fair' amount when it comes to compensating a victim? I know this is not the thrust of the article but it's something worth putting out there. at the end of the day when the courts make a judgement acknowledging that schools are negligent, what do people think about how the impact of such trauma is measured?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

who's really responsible?

Bashed boy's mum seeks new bullying laws
from AAP

The mother of a 12-year-old boy bashed at a police-run disco is demanding new laws to ensure young bullies pay for their actions.

Lynette Bishop has issued a direct challenge to Queensland Premier Anna Bligh, saying laws are needed to protect children suffering at the hands of bullies.

She said her son was scared and angry after being beaten by a group of young boys at a blue-light disco on the Sunshine Coast on Friday night.

She said she intends to press charges but police had warned her that the case has little chance of making it to court.

"We're going to go ahead and try and lay charges," Ms Bishop told the ABC.

"But at the end of the day, as we've been advised by police, they're not really going to be able to do anything because Queensland legislation is such that every attempt must be made by the police to avoid laying charges on a minor."

Even if the case made it to court, Ms Bishop said, police had advised that the likely outcome would be a warning for those involved.

She said there had been too many cases of extreme bullying and the government must act.

"I am as sad as I am mad about what is not being done by our politicians.

"There's nothing in place now, despite what Anna Bligh said on the news last night that there are strict guidelines and policies in place - that's absolute rubbish.

"I can't even get a restraining order out against these boys to protect my own son because they are too young."

Laws were needed to "re-empower" police, teachers and parents, she said.

"I issue a challenge to her to come back to me within a three-month period as to what she's doing to change the legislation and exactly what legislation she (Ms Bligh) thinks is in place to protect our young."

Comment was being sought from the premier's office.

Ms Bishop said her son was fearful, given that one of his assailants attended his school.

"My son was strangled to the point where his throat was so swollen afterwards that we were concerned about his ability to breath.

"He's better physically, the bruises are fading, the swelling is going down, but emotionally he's a scared little boy and he's angry."

Meanwhile, the father of a 12-year-old accused of leading the group bashing said he felt powerless to stop his son's behaviour.

The father said he's sickened by allegations that his son was among a group of six boys who bashed another boy, also 12, at a police-run youth disco on the Sunshine Coast on Friday.

The young victim was admitted to hospital with concussion and has told reporters he now fears for his life.

The father of the accused 12-year-old says he and his wife are good parents but they've struggled to control their son.

The man, who has not been identified, told the Sunshine Coast Daily his son had himself been a victim of bullying.

"My son has expressed his remorse at what happened and as parents me and my wife are trying to get to the bottom of what triggered this behaviour," he said.

"We're getting him into some programs to see if there is an underlying condition that's causing this.

"We've tried so hard but in the end we can't control what our son does."

He said that if he'd known what his son was allegedly planning he would not have allowed him to go to the Blue Light Disco.

"We're good parents. We try and it's really hurtful people blame this on us," he said.

"We've tried disciplining him by taking away privileges but that doesn't work.

"And if we ground him he takes it out on us or runs away from home. It's so confusing to know what to do."

Police are investigating the bashing at the disco at Buderim. They have not said how many officers were present at the youth event at the time of the attack.

this is hard. mum and dad trying their best with behavioural issues at home and then Little Johnny goes to the disco and clobbers someone else over the head. the parents of the 12 year old accused of leading the group of boys in this story are to be commended for facing the music and accepting responsibility. we like parents like that. we feel their deep embarrassment that their offspring behave in such an abhorrent way, but beyond this will there be any consequences for their son, beyond 'getting him into programs'? this poses a broader difficult question: as children grow into adolescents how much control are parents expected to reasonably have when it comes to disciplining their children in relation to bullying and intimidating others?

tell us what you think.

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.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

K-Rudd: it's ok for parents to get involved

and so we come to K-Rudd's Statement Of The Week: let parents handle school bullying by contacting the bully's parents if the school won't handle it themselves.

Kevin Rudd slammed for saying it is 'the right thing' for parents of bullied child to contact parent of bully

by Phillip Hudson

PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd is at the centre of a fierce debate over whether parents of bullying victims should confront the mums and dads of their child's tormentor.

Experts yesterday slammed as simplistic Mr Rudd's suggestion that parents take direct action if a school could not deal with the bullying and warned it could lead to vigilantism.
Mr Rudd said yesterday he believes it is "exactly the right thing" for the parent of a bullied child to contact the parent of the bully.

"I would not object to any parent doing that one bit. These things have to be sorted out," the Prime Minister said.

Mr Rudd said contact should be by telephone and in a calm and respectful way. He urged parents to first seek to talk to their child's teacher or the school principal.

But teen psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, a nationally renowned bullying expert who is a founding member of the National Centre Against Bullying, described Mr Rudd's comments as "the worst piece of advice".

Rather than go to other parents directly, Dr Carr-Gregg said people concerned that a school was not properly protecting their children should "kick it up the chain" and go to the Education Department.

Dr Carr-Gregg said the Mr Rudd should stick to politics and not try to be a psychologist.
"It really is disappointing that the Prime Minister would give out simplistic bits of advice without consulting experts," he said.

Dr Carr-Gregg said the strategy of contacting a bully's parents directly could lead to the problem escalating.

"The message he sends out could cause even further problems to young people who are victims of bullying," Dr Carr-Gregg said.

"If you go to the parents of the bully, they will be defensive and the problem will escalate. You make it even more difficult for your child when they go to the school the next day," he said.

Psychologist and bullying researcher Dr Helen McGrath, who has been involved in the formation of the National Safe Schools Framework, described Mr Rudd's advice as well-intentioned but wrong.

"It usually isn't a good idea to contact the other child's parents because, although sometimes there might be some co-operation, things often become hostile and can get out of hand and make the situation even worse," she said.

Queensland Association of State School Principals president Norm Hart said he agreed with most of Mr Rudd's comments but urged parents to be sure they had the full story before contacting another student's family.

Mr Hart said some children claimed to be victims of bullying to get out of school, or claimed to be the victim when they were the bully.

Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens Associations president Margaret Black said she disagreed with Mr Rudd's approach because she was concerned how some parents would deal with it.

"Probably 90 per cent of the time calling the parent would work, but I would be concerned about the other 10 per cent," she said.

Queensland Secondary Principals Association president Norm Fuller said he understood what Mr Rudd was saying, but he also held concerns some parents may react violently to the intensely emotional issue.

"I would not support anything that is vigilante or a violent approach upon the other family," he said.

The Queensland-raised PM said when he was at school he found seeing bullying "really uncomfortable". But the problem was far worse today, because "it follows them home through cyber bullying", he said.

"It's 24-hours-a-day bullying, and that's what, I think, is the new cancer out there facing the young people of Australia," he said.

He warned parents of bullies not to condone their children's actions: "Any parent out there who faintly gives a nod and a wink to one of their kids, saying it's OK to use physical violence or threats against another kid, I'd just say to those parents: don't. Just don't."
He said it would be ideal to solve the problem at school: "If it doesn't work there, then parents have to, you know, exercise their responsibilities as the carer of their kids ... that means if things are going wrong, things are going bad, and your kid is terrified about going to school, that is unacceptable.

"And you've got to do something about it. If it comes to it and you've got to actually pick up the phone and talk to the parent of another kid, I would say there's nothing wrong with that at all," he said.

But the Victorian Education Department's policy on bullying advises parents of victims not to confront bullies or their families, saying it usually doesn't work and makes the situation much worse.

The Government has given child safety charity the Alannah and Madeline Foundation $3 million to run an anti-bullying trial, including in 48 schools in Victoria. Mr Rudd said he hoped it would be extended to every school.

"We should have a national policy of zero tolerance towards any form of bullying towards a kid," he said.

Victorian Education Minister Bronwyn Pike's spokesman said: "Victorian schools have a strong set of anti-bullying guidelines and we encourage parents to discuss any concerns with the principal."

what do you think? are you a victim of bullying whose parents took matters into their own hands? if so, did the bullying stop or get worse? are you a teacher who knows of parents doing this? are you a parent who got sick of their child coming home miserable and decided to do something about it?

tell us what you think.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tom's story

Tom was a victim of bullying at his workplace. This is his story.


My work record after 34 years in the media was good enough to be appointed to a bureau posting to work some two thousand km's away from the head office. This involved moving my family. On arrival in my new office I found it festooned with homophobic and racist posters. I ignored them but that was just the start. After facing abuse every day I asked my Pic Editor to intervene - nothing was done. Each time I asked for help and nothing was done the tempo of abuse would escalate.

It was during a visit by a chief of staff (whose face was used on the homophobic posters) that my car was trashed in a secure company car park. During this visit my attackers thought it funny to let me know that they had guns and ammunition and were prepared to use them. The cheif of staff removed the posters and directed me not to tell the police investigating the damaged car about the office issues and assured me he would 'fix it". The hostilities continued. The Pic Editor, a man who knew me for many years then called in the HR department. For one day the abuse stopped. The next day the abuse started with a renewed hatred. The head of the HR department later told me he was called to the editors’ office and told his department would not be involved and instead the chief of staff would handle it.

The attacks continued with harassment on the street and threats against my partner. I informed the Pic Ed I was no longer prepared to stay. On my return to the city the real abuse started. I was sent to company doctors only interested in proving me mad. I was sat in a room for eight hour shifts. If I was given a job it would be handed to me with comments like "this would suit your type". I watched as thirty-four years of honourable work went down the drain.

Later accessing my Workcover records I found reports written by my section heads with statements like "Tom is the most overt homosexual he had ever met and could not imagine me taking offence at anything said to him". He also accused me of racism in another report. One of their supervisors said "there was no problem in the office and that Tom had entered into a homosexual relationship and that was the problem". The editor refused my request to confront these men about their racist and homophobic reports.

I have documented all the events and would like the Editor to grant me the independent enquiry the union and my former workmates demanded.

The damage caused by bullying lasts for life. The damage caused to me but also to those close to me is enough for me to make it my life's work to stand up against this vile crime. They have demanded confidentiality agreements and tried in other ways to silence me and to some degree I have functioned beyond it but this campaign has made the events of all those years ago seem as if it was only yesterday.


Thanks for sharing with us Tom.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Aussies Against Bullying news - 1 March

Welcome to the first AAB newsletter:

1. The good folks at Justice for Brodie Panlock is petitioning for new legislation and amendments regarding bullying and psychological abuse in all its forms.  They have established a website

Sign the online petition here or write a letter.

Please support this very worthy cause!

2. I have been approached by a TV producer for a well-known program.  They are doing a story on workplace bullying and is interested in speaking to members of this group who have experienced workplace bullying.  If you are interested please email and I will put you into contact with the producer.  This will help publicise the issue of workplace bullying so be brave and speak up.

3. This site is established to offer a safe place for victims of bullying to share their stories.  Please help by publicising this site to your family and friends - there is somebody in need for support!

Thanks for your support