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School Exclusion becomes key issue for Victorian Principals

Posted on 4 March 2018
School Exclusion becomes key issue for Victorian Principals

As this news article illustrates, the issue of school exclusion for students - or expulsion - has come into focus in Victoria. Responding to what has been seen as an increase in expulsions, the Education Department had reviewed a number of cases in favour of the student, leaving the Principal in a very difficult situation.  In this case the Principal subsequently resigned citing his inability to guarantee the safety of others in the school when his own decisions are not supported by the bureaucracy.

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A HIGH school principal has quit over fears for his students, after his decision to expel a student who made threats with a knife was overturned.

The resignation comes amid concerns among principals about keeping students safe as rulings to expel rogue and dangerous pupils are reversed. It is understood the principal walked out in frustration after hearing the expulsion was being overturned by the secretary of the Department of Education.

The Herald Sun has been told the boy brought the knife on to school grounds, where he threatened others with it.

One principal said the was "putting our authority on the line".

"To have our decisions overturned, that's a lack of trust," the principal said.

"It's giving a really poor message to the victims and the perpetrators - what consequences are there for them?" Victoria Association of State Secondary Principals president Sue Bell said "principals never take an expulsion lightly and are frustrated when it's overturned".

"Principals and school communities are frustrated," she said.

The Herald Sun this week revealed the expulsion of another girl at a school in Melbourne's north was overturned despite her plans to kill a classmate with chemicals.

The girl returned to the school. Her victim took out a restraining order but later left as the perpetrator remained.

Meadowglen Primary School principal Loretta Piazza said an expulsion should be win-win, giving the student and the school a fresh start.

"Principals' first priority is keeping students safe," she said. "(Student safety) should trump any panel decision or any appeal from parents.

"It really is about trusting principals and allowing them to do what he or she needs to do in the best interests of students and staff." The Herald Sun has been told of a growing resistance to expulsions after a critical Ombudsman's report last year.

Ms Bell said it was "essential" principals had an active role in the expulsion appeal process, with schools currently not represented at hearings.

Schools submit documents to the hearing, but if new evidence is raised by families it cannot respond.

Education Minister James Merlino said: "Every decision must be in the best interest of children." Opposition education spokesman Tim Smith said constantly overturning disciplinary action sent the wrong message to children about respect for others and authority.

A department spokesman said it was inappropriate to comment on matters relating to individual employees.

From Herald Sun, Melbourne  by Ashley Argoon.  02 Mar 2018

Tags: Government Catholic Secondary Principals Australia

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