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Australia Knives, punches, abuse: Violence against teachers a 'growing problem'

21:15  02 february  2020
21:15  02 february  2020 Source:   brisbanetimes.com.au

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During 2019, Workcover accepted 291 assault and occupational violence claims from teachers. That's 1.5 claims for every one of 194 school days.

Statistics obtained by Brisbane Times show a 75 per cent jump in claims for assault since 2016. Teacher numbers increased 7 per cent in the same four-year period, with an extra 3426‬ teachers put on the books.

A Department of Education spokeswoman said only "a very small proportion of claims are made each year".

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That was likely because Queensland schools had a culture of not reporting attacks, Queensland Teachers' Union president Kevin Bates said.

"The assaults that are being reported are probably only a small proportion of those actually occurring," he said.

"It is a growing problem in schools. We are increasingly seeing teachers and principals exposed to a level of violence that is unacceptable."

In October, a 56-year-old teacher was stabbed in the back with a pairing knife in Townsville. Police charged an 11-year-old student over the attack.

In August, a 15-year-old boy was accused of punching a teacher in the face at Toowoomba.

LNP Education spokesman Jarrod Bleijie said the increase in attacks was "frightening".

"Teachers have such an important role in shaping the lives of our kids, they don’t deserve to be treated like punching bags," he said.

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"This issue has been raised consistently in recent years and Annastacia Palaszczuk has done nothing to protect our teachers."

When asked how he would curb rates of violence against teachers, Mr Bleijie said an LNP government would "air condition every state school classroom and introduce a back to basics curriculum to take the pressure off teachers and help manage student behaviour".

"There needs to be a zero tolerance approach taken to any form of violence, bullying, harassment or assault – those kids should be sent home straight away," he said.

The education department spokeswoman said the Respect our Staff, Respect our School campaign introduced in 2016 had helped boost reporting numbers and "the need to call out violent or abusive behaviour".

"The department continues to provide free, individualised counselling and support to all staff, and their immediate family members, through the department’s employee assistance program," she said.

Last year Education Minister Grace Grace promised $8 million for further research into school attacks after a study found more than one-third of Queensland school principals were physically attacked by a parent or student in 2018.

One of the Queensland principals surveyed told the Australian Catholic University study: “I have been hit by a student with a cricket bat, I have been told that a parent is coming to shoot me, I have been abused on Facebook. I can tell a hundred stories of physical threats and incidents in my principal career.”

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