Ipswich West State School
Ipswich West State School

Bizarre bullying strategy slammed

A MOTHER has condemned the anti-bullying policies of an Ipswich school after her autistic son was given a “stop” sign to wave at his tormentors.

The eight-year-old boy was armed with the sign by staff at Ipswich West State School after he said he had been pushed down a staircase by bullies and even dangled over a second-storey veranda.
Far from deterring the cruel attacks on her son, his mother said the sign only made him a target for more bullying.

“My son is terrified of going to school and no-one is helping him. He’s totally on his own,” she told The Queensland Times yesterday.

“The situation is atrocious and I think that giving my son a card to wave at these bullies is completely inappropriate.

“It made my son feel terrible. He told me he didn’t go back to school because he had been told carry this sign about.”

The mother, who does not wish to be identified for her son’s sake, said the bullying he had suffered had brought on convulsive fits.

After a doctor said the youngster was suffering panic attacks, the school advised his mother to buy him stress balls to help him cope.

She did – but they were stolen by her son’s bullies the very next day.

The mother, who fund-raises and volunteers at the school, said she had told her son to give up using the “stop” sign when he told her about it.

She said the sign was on red card and measured approximately 10cms by 15cms
“I’ve tried to do so much for the school to give my son the best possible chance but feel like I have no protection or support from the staff,” she said.

“We are helpless. Are these bullies going to break my son’s neck before anyone does anything to stop this?”

The married mother-of-two is not the only parent to complain about bullying at Ipswich West State School.

Another woman pulled her two youngest children, aged nine and seven, out of the school last week.

She said both had been physically and verbally bullied.

“It never used to be like this,” she said.

“My eldest children were all there 10 years ago and it was a good school.”

Independent childhood behaviour specialist Dr Margie Carter said the use of the “stop” sign could have serious repercussions on the child.

“The school should be held accountable in a situation where this sort of bullying is going on,” Dr Carter said.

“The responsibility should not be on the child – it makes them even more vulnerable.

“The mother has done the right thing is speaking out. She needs to be extra loud in this situation so the child doesn’t become invisible.”

During the past six months there have been three different principals at Ipswich West State School.
The present acting principal is Mike Loftus, previously deputy principal of Ipswich State High School.

Responding to criticism of the use of “stop” signs, an Education Queensland spokesman said: “Ipswich West State School implements a range of programs, including one that uses alternative communication methods, to help children – in particular to support students with a disability.”

He added: “The principal’s position at the school has been advertised and a recruitment and selection process is underway.

“This process will reach conclusion some time in November. Any new principal appointment will be effective as of the beginning of 2010.”

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