New figures showing the extent of weapons in Queensland’s state schools have prompted calls for greater on-site security, including metal detectors.
A Seven News investigation last week revealed that more than two students per school-day over the past year have been expelled or suspended for using weapons.
The state’s schools reported 63 incidents of physical assaults or threats using a weapon between the first day of school on February 2 and March 1.
Right to information documents show 466 students were expelled or suspended for “physical misconduct involving an object” in the past year.
Mostly the objects were knives and scissors, but there were also knuckle dusters, swords, guns, hammers and explosives.
However, a spokesperson for the Queensland Education Department told The Educator that despite the reports, the state’s schools are among the safest places in the community for children and young people.
“It is important to note that the data referenced by the Seven Network is for disciplinary decisions recorded as being for ‘physical misconduct involving an object’,” the spokesperson said.
“This is a broad category, which includes threats or use of an object not in line with teacher directions – for instance, using scissors to cut up a plastic container or damage a school desk and failing to cease after a teacher direction.”
The spokesperson added that other examples include a verbal reference such as a word mentioned in a threat resulting in disciplinary action without there being any physical object involved at all.
“It is also important to note that the number of incidents does not equate to the number of students subject to a Student Disciplinary Absence [SDA],” the spokesperson said.
“One student may be suspended several times in a school year and each time that student is suspended it is recorded as a separate SDA.”
A number of SDAs can also result from a single event where more than one student is involved.
The spokesperson said when such incidents occur, principals have a key role to play as school leaders.
“The Department of Education and Training recognises that principals are best placed to assess and respond to incidents that occur within each school by taking into consideration the individual circumstances of the incident and the student/s involved,” the spokesperson said.
“The Department supports decisions by principals to take appropriate disciplinary measures if students are found using weapons at school.”
Principals must also notify police if illegal items such as weapons are found during a search.
Despite the calls for metal detectors in some of the state’s schools, the spokesperson said such measures not being considered by the Department.