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Violence report: new data in on 12 of SA's toughest schools


Bullying and schoolyard fights troubling 12 of South Australia’s most “complex” secondary schools are dramatically falling, and Christies Beach High’s principal says new support like employing security staff on sites is “money well spent”.

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Education Minister Blair Boyer said recent data showed 115 reported violent incidents in Term One across the 12 public schools targeted for extra support, this fell to 87 reported incidents in Term Two and 78 in Term Three.

The schools were identified as having complex needs like social disadvantage or having reported previous violent incidents.

Boyer said early positive results from investing more than $12.25 million to support schools in the 2022 – 2023 financial year to tackle the escalating number of violent or anti-social incidents being reported in schools was “a relief”.

This included funding for security staff to patrol public schools, along with introducing a suite of behaviour-related changes including the mobile phone ban in schools and restorative justice plans.

Boyer said it was “really upsetting” to see numerous incidents of violence in schools video footage over the past year that show students attacked in schoolyards including at the Golden Grove High School that is based in his own electorate.

“I feel relief to be honest, that these things can work,” Boyer said.

“This figure of 32 per cent is well over and above what was expected, and it’s good solid evidence as part of this trial.

“It’s suggesting this stuff can actually work.”

One Nation MLC Sarah Game released data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act this week showing $815,206 was spent on security during SA class room hours in 2022, with funds paid to SA Police and private security firms.

Alongside the targeted 12 high schools project, Boyer said a Positive Behaviour from Learning program has been rolled out as a pilot in 41 schools across the state, some schools also now had behaviours coaches on site or other “tailored supports” for specific problems.

Boyer also said concerns over the ballooning number of students at secondary schools, with numbers at some schools teaching Year 7 to Year 12 reaching up to 2000, were being addressed.

“The tricky thing with those, something I think I’ve been pretty upfront about, is when these issues arise in some of our bigger secondary schools it can be harder to get a lid back on it,” he said.

Christies Beach High School is among the 12 schools receiving extra support, along with Golden Grove, Mark Oliphant, Whyalla, Port Augusta and Playford International.

Christies Beach High School principal Graham Clark said there had been a marked decrease in incidents this year at his school of about 900 students from Year 7 to Year 12.

And he believed introducing two full-time security staff who wear orange fluorescent vests on site during school hours from Term One this year was contributing to students and staff feeling safer.

“This is money well spent…. they absolutely promote a culture of safety for our students and our staff,” Clark said.

Security staff now patrolled school “hotspots”, removed intruders from the school grounds and supported students and teachers around “parent violence and aggression at the school”.

“Occasionally an aggressive parent will be on site and without our security we would feel less than safe,” Clark said.

“For example, we have one parent who has a known history and there is a concern around him being quite violent in schools, when we knew he could be coming to the school we made a quick call to our security and they were able to provide that next level of security.”

Clark did not shy away from other behaviour-related incidents but said a “perception” of the school being violent was not the reality, and that violent incidents were rare and dealt with swiftly.

He said there were cases previously where students aged 12, 13 or 14 had arrived at school with weapons because the students were fearful for their safety after threats were made outside of the school grounds.

There also had been fights in the schoolyard where teachers were also required to deal with students who were filming violence as bystanders.

Clark said the school had introduced a strong zero-violence policy, ran a program to identify and support students who have experienced trauma, introduced positive behaviours for learning and involved parents around any incidents.

In his seven years at the school, Clark said “the reality for us is that violence in its pure form is a rare event and the message we send to our community is we don’t tolerate it and we deal with it swiftly and with the right processes”.

“At Christies Beach High School, we have had probably a perception of the presence of student-related violence, typically generating from social media and often community conflict that then presents in the school environment,” he said.

“Having said that, we have never had in the last seven years any use of weapons on the school grounds… and we haven’t had any incidents that I have been aware of where a video of violence that occurred in this school has been released.

“The big message from me is, and we hear this all the time, parents and students who know the school and the community absolutely know we are a good school and incidents of violence are not the reality of the school.”

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