New anti-bullying policies
STUDENTS starting at a new school in NSW will automatically have to meet with a school counsellor under new State Government policies being developed to address the suicide death of Kadina High student Alex Wildman.
The new rule is one of several announced by NSW Education Minister Verity Firth as part of the Government’s interim response to the coronial inquest into Alex’s death.
The new rule would apply to anyone starting at a new school, but would exclude ‘normal transition periods’, such as students moving from primary school to high school. It follows complaints that teachers and the school counsellor at Kadina High did not know of bullying Alex had suffered at his previous school.
“Alex’s death in 2008 was a tragedy and our sympathy remains with his family and friends,” Ms Firth said.
“While NSW schools remain among the safest places in our community, there are lessons we can take away from this tragedy.”
Ms Firth said the recommendations of Deputy State Coroner Malcolm MacPherson were still being examined and she would respond in full ‘as soon as possible’.
In the meantime, the State Government had launched a review of the NSW school counselling service, in line with the recommendations of an earlier Parliamentary Inquiry into Children and Young People.
Ms Firth said the Education Department would also trial a dedicated email address for reporting bullying incidents.
She also agreed with complaints the State’s anti-bullying policy was too complex, saying she had instructed the department to ‘distil’ the policy into a clear, consistent and concise brochure.
“There will never be a one-size-fits-all response and it is important that we still allow school communities to develop their own policies, but at the same time make sure everyone has access to basic and clear information,” she said.
Kadina High principal Ian Davies, who has yet to publicly comment on the Coroner’s findings, was not available for interview.