Teacher ‘helpless’ to protect students against bullying
A QUEENSLAND primary school teacher who claims he witnessed a student stab another with a pencil says he learned the hard way that the state's education system works in favour of bullies and against staff who try to protect young victims.
Casual teacher Grant Elmsly, 56, made the claims as backlash over Amy "Dolly" Everett's death mounts with many parents this week calling on all schools, principals and teachers to do more to protect students from bullying.
Dolly, 14, took her own life in January this year after enduring years of bullying at a QLD boarding school.
"I read with amazement the story about Dolly," Mr Elmsly said.
"But I don't know that teachers could have done anymore to help because we're not supported by the system to do so which makes us helpless to an extent."
Mr Elmsly said he was teaching a Year 6 class at Bribie Island State School when he noticed four boys were verbally abusing another male student on August 21 last year. He said the situation quickly took a turn for the worse when one of the bullies "stabbed [the victim] with a pencil".
"He just walked up to him and stabbed him really hard in the lower back," Mr Elmsly said.
"The kid screamed and collapsed on the ground and the other kid carried on walking as if he didn't do it.
"Four of his mates said 'get up you little s**t and started kicking him on the ground while also blocking me'."
Mr Elmsly said he couldn't get to the injured boy without "barging through" the alleged attackers so instead called the school office to avoid "getting in trouble" for touching the students.
The alleged attacker was eventually taken to the office for a couple of hours before being returned to class as the victim "sat at his desk and cried".
"He didn't come to school the next day," Mr Elmsly said.
Mr Elmsly, who specialises in teaching children with special needs, said he was unable to file a report because as a casual he didn't have a login for the school's OnePortal system, the department's intranet for school staff.
He told news.com.au that he asked various staff members to report the incident on his behalf but that none of them would do it.
"They all seemed to support the bullies in saying the kid who was stabbed deserved it," he said. "I couldn't believe it was normal to them. There was just no excuse for that sort of behaviour."
A spokesperson for the QLD Department of Education told news.com.au it was unable to comment on specific incidents because of privacy reasons.
"There is no higher priority for the Department of Education than the safety and wellbeing of students," a statement from the department read.
"Parents and students can be confident that if an allegation of harm is reported in a state school, it will be dealt with immediately and in a sensitive manner.
"Bribie Island State School, like all QLD state schools, does not tolerate bullying.
"Any situation that threatens the safety and wellbeing of any student is treated extremely seriously, and dealt with as a matter of urgent priority."
According to the department, students who engage in bullying behaviour at Bribie Island State School are dealt with under the school's Responsible Behaviour Plan for Students.
"Students and parents are strongly encouraged to report cases of bullying to the school principal or school leadership team and work with them to resolve any issues in the first instance," the statement read.
But Mr Elmsly said his experience at the school did not reflect the department's comments.
Mr Elmsly said he reported the bullying incident he allegedly witnessed to QLD Police and the Department of Education's ethical standards unit because he was so concerned about the student's welfare.
He claimed the department ultimately sided with the bullies who allegedly made up stories about him and he was subsequently suspended.
In a letter viewed by news.com.au from the Department of Education to Mr Elmsly in response to his complaint, he was informed on November 15 last year that he was placed on suspension because of "performance issues which the Department has been unable to adequately address ... [because of his] refusal to participate in performance management discussions".
"I tried to do a mandatory report as required under QLD statute, as a good teacher and man ... and got whacked," Mr Elmsly said.
He claimed his suspension - which is current pending the outcome of an internal investigation - was an example of the QLD Department of Education punishing teachers who try to step in and protect victims of bullies.
"It's common for QLD principals to tell their staff not to write mandatory reports on OnePortal as it's available on request to parents and the regional education QLD office will think they are wonderful principals," Mr Elmsly said.
News.com.au has contacted QLD Police for comment.