Teachers bullied boy, opposition claims

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An eight-year-old boy wanted to kill himself after alleged bullying by teachers at his public school in NSW’s southern highlands, his parents said.

The NSW opposition, who made the claims public today, said two teachers constantly humiliated the boy – who has a mild form of autism called Asperger’s Syndrome – over a period of three years.
But the NSW Education Department denied the allegations of bullying, saying the child had a history of violence.

“The principal … refutes any allegation that such behaviour occurred, rather staff made every effort to assist the student in his studies,” a department spokesman said.

The parents withdrew the child from the school in October last year and he is now studying at a non-government school where they claim he has reported no problems.

Opposition education spokeswoman Jillian Skinner said other parents in NSW had reported instances of teacher bullying and she believed the problem was widespread.

“I believe it is unacceptable for bullying (to take place by) anyone – it is particularly serious when it involves people in positions of authority which includes teachers,” Ms Skinner said.

Earlier this month, the boy’s parents wrote to NSW Education Minister Carmel Tebbutt asking her to step in and resolve the problem in other schools.

“We are disgusted with the way our son was treated within this local government school and wish for other people to know what our eight-year-old son was put through,” the parents said in their e-mail.

“It is heartbreaking to hear your son tell you he just wants to jump in front of a bus so he doesn’t have to go through the torment anymore.”

Ms Tebbutt had not replied to the e-mail or a second letter written last week, Ms Skinner said.

The Education Department said teachers had held interviews with the child’s parents, employed a teachers’ aide and enlisted the help of counsellors to help deal with the child’s behavioural problems.

But no bullying allegations were received at the school or the department’s area office until last September, when the parents indicated they were withdrawing the student from the school, the department spokesman said.

The student had not responded to assistance offered at the school and was suspended three times in the months before he was withdrawn, the spokesman said.

Ms Tebbutt said students with learning disabilities were often treated as students with behavioural problems by staff that didn’t recognise the true problem.

Original article here. March 30, 2005

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