Bullying the main factor behind student suspension

According to Government figures released on Tuesday by Attorney-General Vanessa Goodwin, 38% of suspensions were for physical abuse or harassment.

Malcolm Elliott, Tasmanian Principles Association (TPA) president, told the ABC that suspensions were an option of “last resort” and were not handed down lightly.

"A suspension is an option of virtually last resort," Elliott said, adding that preventative plans may involve the student working with the school psychologist or social worker, as well as the person responsible for their grades.

“In the case of bullying, the situation may be that the child has been on the receiving end of the bullying just can't face school with that person there, so the perpetrator has to stay away."

Mark Morrissey, Tasmanian Children's Commissioner, said the issue requires forward-thinking in terms of recognising opportunities to help troubled students through other “therapeutic services”. 

"When a particular cohort of children continually gets excluded, that is a symptom of something seriously going wrong but also an opportunity to put some more wrap-around therapeutic services in for these kids," Morrissey said.

To address anti-social behaviour, some organisations have unveiled programs seeking to detect signs of potentially aggressive or disturbing behaviour early so bullying – and potentially more extreme behaviour – can be avoided.

Australian Multicultural Foundation’s Dr Hass Dellal told The Educator that his organisation’s program, the Community Awareness Training Manual (CATM) has been designed in a way that can help prevent any anti-social behaviour, whether it’s bullying, drug abuse, domestic violence or criminality.

“It can identify the beginnings or behaviours in those areas and act to prevent them,” Dellal said.

“How to best roll it out is a discussion that is taking place now, but nationally it has gone out to community groups, government service providers and the community in general.”

While Morrissey shared Elliott’s view that for every student crisis there is inherent opportunity to reform them, not all children are responsive to such efforts and more needs to be done to explore effective preventative programs.

"Some young people come from the most dreadful situations and go on to live amazingly successful lives," Morrissey said.

"But I guess the flipside to that is some don't, and I think that's something we need to explore more in society - what is that magic ingredient?"