Teachers are being bashed, stabbed and spat on by violent students in classrooms across Queensland. There have been more than 1300 physical assaults on teachers in the past five years, some by students as young as five, according to State Government injury reports obtained by The Sunday Mail under Freedom of Information laws.
The situation has prompted teacher and parent groups to call for greater protection for teachers and even legal action. In the worst cases revealed to The Sunday Mail, students held knives to teachers' throats, stabbed them with pens, beat them with chairs, slammed them into doors and made death threats.
Assaults at school 'out of control'
One teacher was hit with a cricket bat and kicked 40 times. A high school principal was punched 30 times in the body, once in the eye and then head-butted six times. Other teachers have been injured while breaking up fights between students. Teachers also have been hit and threatened with a range of makeshift weapons including Stanley knives, lunch boxes, school bags, pot plants and classroom furniture.
One teacher was hit on the arm by a metal toy truck thrown by an irate child. In other assaults, children have flicked their own blood at teachers, and laser pointers have been aimed at teachers' eyes.
Parents are proving just as much a handful for teachers, storming on to school premises and launching verbal and physical attacks.
Queensland Teachers Union president Julie-Ann McCullough said the incidents confirmed teachers' rights had been sacrificed in favour of students. Attack victims felt the situation in schools was "out of control", with teachers reluctant to discipline children because they feared a lack of departmental support.
"We've seen all the initiatives to support students and students' rights ... but the support for teachers' rights has never appeared," Ms McCullough said.
Education Minister Anna Bligh said the Government condemned any assault on teachers.
"Teachers have a right to feel safe and supported," Ms Bligh said. "The State Government takes this very seriously and has just released a Safety in Schools paper which proposes greater links with police and harsher penalties. Student attacks ranging from the minor to the very serious are all investigated. Serious assaults are reported to police."
Ms Mccullough called for more behaviour-management programs and support for teachers' rights. And she said universities could have a bigger role in providing information and support in courses for teachers before they entered the classroom.
"A lot of teachers indicate when they first start teaching that this is one of the areas they want to know more on," Ms Mccullough said.
Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens Associations past-president Garry Cislowski said violent students were stealing valuable learning time from other pupils.
"This is just not on," he said. "Where are the parents giving the students good leadership and skills to behave in society?"
He said students who assaulted teachers should be forced to appear before the courts. Queensland Association of State School Principals president Tom Hardy said the figures showed a lack of respect for teachers, who were seen as "fair game".
"We are disturbed by these figures — the community has lost its respect for teachers," he said.