New book says: parents are bullying teachers
"More than 80 per cent of 2500 teachers and school staff say they have been bullied by parents". Photo: Cathryn Tremain
TEACHERS are increasingly being bullied, yelled at, and in rarer cases, physically assaulted by some assertive parents who believe they have an ''inalienable right to scream and demand things for their children,'' the NSW Teachers Federation says.
More than 80 per cent of 2500 teachers and school staff say they have been bullied by parents, according to research in a new book by three academics, Deirdre Duncan, Dan Riley and John Edwards. They say the bullying of school staff by parents (and others including principals) is a ''dark side'' of schools, ignored because schoolyard bullies attract the most publicity.
Little wonder then there was no surprise at the behaviour of Caroline Coupland, the daughter of independent MP Bob Katter, who was this week found guilty of assault for shoving a teacher's aide. The incident occurred after Mrs Coupland's three daughters, including one with the disability Williams syndrome, were expelled from a Mosman's childcare centre for taking a headache tablet into ''show and tell'', a violation of the centre's policies.
The book, Bullying of Staff in Schools, shows many parents behaving badly towards teachers. One teacher wrote: ''Parents shout, raise fists, scream, argue, storm out of the room, accuse staff of enjoying making children suffer and sometimes accuse them of paedophilia.''
While parents were the most frequent bullies, 70 per cent of staff had been bullied by their principal, who were often more harmful, more persistent than parents and often oblivious to the impact of their actions, said Dr Duncan.
Bullying included shouting, rage and anger, being publicly reprimanded, belittling someone, threatening to make a teacher's life difficult, physical abuse or threats of violence, intimidating behaviour such as shoving or blocking the way, and insulting emails and phone calls.
Tempers often flared when teachers dealt with overly anxious parents of young children, or when children were sick, said Fionie Stavert, an organiser for the NSW Teachers Federation in Hornsby, Middle Harbour and the inner west.
She says, rather than supporting teachers like in the past, some parents now questioned their authority, and believed they had an ''inalienable right to scream [at teachers] and demand things'' for their children.
A north shore teacher with 15 years experience agreed. ''Take Bob Katter's daughter, for example, she sent pills in with kids. Instead of saying 'I did the wrong thing,' she yelled and shoved someone. What are we teaching our kids? We need to teach them to take responsibility by doing so ourselves.''