Emma Macdonald July 04, 2012
Bullying claims ... Gilmore Primary incident is under investigation. Photo: Melissa Adams
Police are investigating an incident at Gilmore Primary School in which a long-running bullying issue turned into an angry mob scene involving students and their parents.
The events began last Tuesday when a mother confronted a group of children - aged between 8-10 - that she alleges were punching her son. The mother alleges her son had been subject to numerous violent incidents over the past term and she was considering enrolling him at a nearby school after fears for his physical and emotional safety.
He was trying to find his teacher at school pick-up time when confronted by the other children, who are part of a large extended family group.
The mother says she went to find her son, saw him being attacked and yelled at the other children. A teacher intervened, taking mother and son to a nearby staffroom.
It is believed the remaining children got word to their parents, who turned up to the school shortly after.
The children allege the mother had physically assaulted them.
Their parents began shouting abuse at the mother and staff kept the two parties separate by sheltering the mother and son in the staffroom.
Meanwhile, the children are believed to have gone outside and thrown rocks and sticks at the staffroom window. Staff then called police.
ACT Policing said yesterday ''as the incident is a current investigation it would be inappropriate to comment on the circumstances''.
It is believed they are investigating claims by the group of children the mother physically assaulted them during the altercation.
The mother, who has 12-week-old twins and is part way through an education degree with the hope of becoming a teacher, strenuously denies the allegation.
She said she feared for her and her son's safety during the incident and ''felt completely outnumbered and intimidated by these kids''.
A spokesman from the ACT Education Directorate said the incident happened after school hours and that the ''school responded immediately and are continuing to work with the parties involved to address issues''.
But the parents of the bullied boy, as well as parents on the school's Parents and Citizen's Council and the Australian Education Union, all say the bullying issues at the school are long-standing and have not been adequately dealt with by the directorate.
In a letter to Education Minister Chris Bourke, the father of the bullied child thanked staff at the school for taking appropriate action to keep his wife and child safe when some ''parents and children were yelling and threatening violence against them''.
The incident had left her ''traumatised and frightened for her own safety'' and the impact of attacks on their nine-year-old son had left him withdrawn and frequently upset.
A member of the P&C Council said the school had lost a number of families in the last year because children were being bullied by a small group.
While the bullied boy has accepted a place at another school, his father told Dr Bourke that when he had tried to move his two other children to neighbouring schools, there were no places ''due in no small part to the outflow of students fleeing the unsafe and apparently indifferent atmosphere that is exhibited by [the school] and its management''.
The Australian Education Union's acting ACT branch secretary Glenn Fowler said staff had dealt admirably with the events of last Tuesday, but the bullying issue relating to one family group had been ongoing for many months.
He said it had become a distressing environment for teachers to work in.
Opposition Education spokesman Steve Doszpot said he had been contacted by many parents expressing their dismay at the directorate's handling of the issue.
''I am also very concerned that while the bullied student was apparently forced to move schools, there seems to be no punishment of the bullies themselves.''
He was seeking enrolment numbers to confirm if students had left the school because of this issue.
''This is a serious issue which should demand urgent attention from Chris Bourke.''
The parents of the bullied child have been invited to meet with the school principal and a member of the Education Directorate today.