The trauma handed out by a group of boys to the young teenage boy who has a disability at Craigmore High School continues to remind us all that bullying is still rife in our school system. People with disabilities continue to suffer remaining isolated and persecuted. The government has put in place a series of Peer Review programs to extinguish this problem, to no avail.
Forgetting not the serious physical injury (a broken nose) sustained by this young man, he will live now with further significant psychological issues ranging from an inability to adapt into the community, a potential for serious mental health issues, embarrassment and further alienation. The horrific nature of his injuries are a constant reminder to our government that bullying has not disappeared from within our school system.
Immediately before the State Election in March 2010 I was on Leon Byner’s radio morning show on 5AA with the previous Minister for Education, the Hon Jane Lomax-Smith and the Leader of the Opposition Isobel Redman (previously the Shadow Minister for Disability in 2006 State Election). I spoke of the many examples of bullying experienced going on in the school yards of South Australia by our constituents, the carers and parents of their children who have a disability.
The minister was convinced that the policies relating to bullying strategies was working in Government schools. She was wrong. After the interview with Leon Byner, the phone lines were jammed with our constituents telling the 5AA listeners that they were home schooling their children because of inadequate funding, inexperienced teaching practices and prolific bullying.
We will continue to see this kind of behaviour alive in our schools unless someone stands up and says enough is enough. One could argue that the Peer Review programs are a good intervention but evidence at Craigmore High School demonstrates otherwise. It takes courage from other more able students to adapt and adopt this program. It doesn’t matter whether this was an isolated case. What happened happened! And one case is one too many.
I met with the current Minister for Education, the Hon Jay Weatherill, last week - he fully understood the problem at hand. We discussed this issue, amongst others, and I convinced myself that the qualitative policy measures could work for the betterment of young children and students with disabilities. Obviously not – quantitative measures indicate otherwise! Nevertheless I believe the Peer Review policies in place are adequate. What is obvious though is that there is not enough of the funding for education going in to supporting these policies.
Albeit my glass remains half full – within all of us, there exists a heart and a good sense of community to welcome and to protect our vulnerable people.
dignity for disability (d4d) President