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Victorian principals could gain power to bar aggro parents from schools

A new law being introduced to Victoria's parliament could give principals the power to ban violent or aggressive parents from school grounds.

The proposed laws would allow principals of government, independent and Catholic schools to impose school community safety orders on parents or carers who engage in "harmful, threatening or abusive behaviour.”

Acting Premier James Merlino said the laws were needed due to an increase in inappropriate behaviour by a "small minority" of parents.

Mr Merlino added:

"This is a really critical issue and most parents would be shocked that we need to respond in this way, but no workplace, no one should be subject to violence, to abuse, to threatening behaviour either on site or on social media.
"It is a minority of instances and we're talking about exceptional circumstances, but it does happen."

Mr Merlino said 30 per cent of principals reported they had been threatened at work, while 21 per cent were subject to physical abuse:

"It's not about awkward conversations, difficult conversations; this is about where it gets to the level where it crosses the line.”

While schools will have the right to stop parents from entering their grounds for up to 14 days, parents will still be allowed to communicate with teachers to make sure their children continue to attend school activities.

An assessment will then be completed to determine whether the parent needs to be banned for longer.

Under the legislation, if a parent does not comply with a safety order the matter can be taken to court, where they could face up to $10,000 in fines.

Parents will also be able to challenge the order via an internal merits review, and external review at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal if they don't agree with the outcome.

President of the Victorian Principals Association, Andrew Dalgleish, said there has been an increase in threatening behaviour by parents towards teachers and school staff over the last decade:

"The majority of relationships that principals have with their communities are extremely positive, and they work hard to do that, but when it does occur the trauma can be significant.
"It damages the ability of teachers, and leaders to work the way that they should be able to work in their schools."

The Education and Training Reform Amendment (Protection of School Communities) Bill 2021 will be introduced to the Legislative Assembly this week.


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