Flegg bullies government over school abuse

More Government action was needed to stop school bullying, shadow education minister Bruce Flegg said yesterday.

Education Minister Geoff Wilson announced last week the federal government had agreed to support Queensland’s proposal of a National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence to be held on the third Friday in March each year.

Dr Flegg said while he supported the state Government’s plan to raise awareness of the issue it was by no means a solution.

“It’s a large problem and (a national action day) simply shouldn’t be mistaken for a policy that will fix the problem,” he said.

Dr Flegg said cyber bullying was the biggest challenge and urged Mr Wilson to support his Bill currently before parliament. He called for tougher laws to allow school authorities and police to confiscate electronic devices used to record or transmit images of bullying against children.

“I challenge Geoff Wilson to support my Bill in parliament. I challenge the government to do something practical,” he said.

“We need laws that keep up with the times,” Dr Flegg said.

Figures from Dr Flegg’s Bill estimate one in 10 school children are victims of cyber bullying and reports of some recent suicides of young people have cited cyber bullying as a contributing factor.

But Queensland Teachers’ Union vice president Julie Brown said while she welcomed a national action day, more resources were needed to help teachers combat bullying.

“Teachers need time to deal with bullying and it’s hard as the curriculum is already full,” she said.

Earlier this month Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Julia Gillard said the Federal Government responses to school bullying were not working. During an address at the National Centre Against Bullying Conference, Ms Gillard said one in four children were targets of bullying and in 50 per cent of cases the response by schools was ineffective.

“I’m very surprised by (Ms) Gillard’s figures. I think it’s going to take more resources,” Ms Brown said.

“Most of it happens outside of school so to investigate it properly takes hours and hours and hours,” she said.

Last year the Queensland Government commissioned internationally acclaimed bullying expert Dr Ken Rigby to review current approaches and advise on future strategies.

The Rigby report, Enhancing Responses to Bullying in Queensland Schools, highlighted a lack of education in schools about the range of anti-bullying measures available. His report called on the Department of Education and Training and other educational jurisdictions to provide useful advice and guidance to the community.

Earlier this year the Queensland Government implemented one of his recommendations and formed the Queensland Schools Alliance Against Violence to unite school sectors to tackle school bullying.

Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens’ Associations president and member of the alliance, Margaret Black, said she was pleased to learn the proposal had been supported by the country’s education ministers but warned the problem would not be resolved until the word bullying was clearly defined.

“I get frustrated that bully is loosely used,” she said.

Mrs Black said the difference between bullying and scuffles out in the playground was not a fine line.

“Bullying is premeditated and continually causes grief to the victim,” she said.

As part of an initiative of the Queensland Schools Alliance Against Violence, psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg will host Action Against Bullying educational seminars.

Forums will be held in Brisbane North, Brisbane South, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba, Rockhampton, Mackay, Cairns, Townsville and Mt Isa between May and August this year.

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