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Almost every Australian teacher has been bullied by students or their parents, and it’s taking a toll

When a 2018 survey of 560 teachers reveals 70% of respondents have been bullied or harassed by a student in a 12 month period, and around 83% of respondents disclose a desire to leave teaching citing mental health and well-being repercussions, such poor employee treatment would be deemed unacceptable in most other workplaces.

Billett, Burns and Fogelgarn, in The Conversation 06 May 2019, conducted bullying research in response to media suggestion that teachers overstate bullying by students.

“What now is called bullying is what we used to regard as, you know, kind of giving teachers a hard time and teasing and being little horrible monsters.” Jon Faine, radio presenter.

Teachers are not the only target of bullying. The article reports that 33% of school principals have been verbally and physically threatened during the period 2011-2018 and this is not just a problem in Australia. Similar problems are reported overseas – even in countries such as Taiwan, where students are taught to revere teachers.

The bullying affected 71% of females and 68% of males and included both verbal and physical abuse to person and/or personal property, delivered face-to-face, via mobile or text messages. Tactics such as stand over, students organising themselves against a teacher as a group or engaging parents to argue on their behalf were reported.

Bullying can have considerable impact on teachers with long lasting repercussions. The report notes victims suffering symptoms of anxiety, depression and PTSD, including panic attacks and uncontrollable shaking.

Alarmingly, most teachers felt they weren’t well supported when making reports of bullying and that any response was mostly tokenistic – they even felt the school management allied with the students and parents rather than the teacher.

“I could deal with it if there was any form of support. Teachers have no rights anymore and all we can realistically do is tell students they have detention or call their parents. Students don’t come to detention, then what!”

Survey respondents suggest that a code of conduct with zero-tolerance policy and clear guidelines spelling out which behaviours are considered to be bullying and harassment should be created in schools.

The ability to expel students or ban parents contacting teachers were also supported by survey respondents.

If you have a story that you are willing to share about your experiences in this regard email or call your organiser at the IEU(SA) office – 08 8410 0122.