Dean of Students | Mr Damien Fall
The topic of bullying has been high on the media agenda in recent times. It is clearly an important and highly relevant topic in any environment in which adolescents are gathered. You may have noted that the state government has assembled a task force to investigate and address issues related to bullying. We will watch with interest and take careful note of their findings and any recommendations as it is an area in which every school would like things to be perfect. The reality is that we rarely see perfection and that gathering over 1600 boys in a relatively confined space, every day has the potential to lead to some negative interactions. It is important that both school and home educate young men about how they should be treating others and how they might respond if someone treats them poorly.
Our anti-bullying policy is posted on the College website. It contains information about what bullying is and is not. Importantly, one-off incidents or conflict between students are often not regarded as bullying; most often, bullying involves repeat incidents and/or an imbalance of power. The website also contains information about how a student and parents might act if bullying is taking place. One option is to make an anonymous report via the ‘Bullying Concerns’ button in the Students section of the College website. It is not a place for students to report disagreements or minor conflict; rather, it is an opportunity to make a genuinely anonymous report about an injustice that has taken place.
One important step in addressing potential bullying, has been the decision to insist that students’ mobile phones remain in lockers for the duration of their school day. Not only does this ensure face-to-face communication takes place, but it takes away the opportunity to send inappropriate messages or use cameras while on campus. We will confiscate any phones that we see around the campus and we thank parents for the strong support they have given to our stance over the last few years. Our Formation program also includes lessons that address digital citizenship and the need to make good decisions with the use of electronic devices.
One area that often leads to student conflict is known by students as ‘banter'. It’s an area where many Australian men could behave better, and I think our students often take a lead from high-profile adults. Students will sometimes trade verbal barbs without the intention of causing harm but lacking the empathy to understand the negative impact it may be having. When students return the barbs, they are effectively giving permission for the banter to continue. The best course of action is to assertively ask the other student to stop and to walk away. It takes courage and resilience, but it is an important response.
Next Friday 2 March, we will be sending students from Years 10 and 12 to support at the GPS Swimming Championships. Separate communication about this will be going home and we look forward to a strong show of support from our spectators.