School violence ‘alarming’

David SalvaireSound Telegraph
A Baldivis psychologist says bullying at Baldivis Secondary College is escalating.
Camera IconA Baldivis psychologist says bullying at Baldivis Secondary College is escalating. Credit: Janie Barrett

A Baldivis psychologist says there has been an “alarming” rise in violent bullying at Baldivis Secondary College but the school’s principal has dismissed the claims.

Vishal Maharaj said he had seen an increase in presentations to his Baldivis clinic in the past two years as a result of escalating violence among students.

A number of incidents at the school, including a stabbing, have highlighted bullying issues and driven some parents to home-school their children, Mr Maharaj said.

“With the number of kids I see, it seems to be a culture of aggressive bullying and it’s either the school system doesn’t have enough resource support from the Education Department or the school has a very reactive approach, which happens with a lot of government agencies,” he said.

“The level of physical aggression is quite alarming — there are kids getting grabbed by the throat, thrown against the wall, pushed hard in the back. There’s a lot of physical violence.

“It’s absolutely escalated in the last few years, without a doubt.

“There’s also a lot more suicidal thinking and feelings of helplessness or disillusionment in a system that’s meant to keep them safe and I would assume teachers are struggling with this too.”

Mr Maharaj said he had raised the issue with the school.

The department cancelled a meeting between the Sound Telegraph and the school’s principalKeith Svendsenthis week after the claims emerged.

In a statement released through the department, Mr Svendsen said the school’s data did not reflect the claims being made about Baldivis Secondary College.

“I encourage Mr Maharaj to speak directly with the school about his claims. Unfortunately, these claims have not been raised with me, which is disappointing given they are serious,” Mr Svendsen said.

“We have almost 1800 students and the vast majority are well behaved and do the right thing.

“In fact, only 11 students — that’s 0.6 per cent of the student population — have been suspended more than twice this year.

“Schools are part of the community with students from a variety of backgrounds, so of course it is inevitable that from time to time schools deal with wider social issues that are brought into the school environment.

“Schools also rely on parents to reinforce positive behaviour of their children.

“We also have our own school psychologist and a student services team who provide support to students who need it.”

Baldivis Rotarians recently surveyed their members to assess what services the community needed, with mental health support structures one of the priorities.

Headspace Rockingham community awareness worker Jeremy Tucker said there were a number of services offered that could help young people who were experiencing bullying.

“It’s about coming in and speaking to somebody about what’s going on ... we have eheadspace as well, which is free and confidential online coun-selling from a mental health professional,” he said.

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