The stabbing of a student in a Perth school last week highlights concerns about violence in schools.
According to Australian Bureau of Statistics, the number of victims of assault, across all ages, increased in 2019 by 8 per cent from the previous year to 31, 097 victims, and 82 per cent of incidents did not involve the use of a weapon.
In WA, according to police data, there were 15,469 recorded cases assault and threatening behaviour (both non-family) during 2019-2020.
While these figures show the rate of violence is high and rising, young people are particularly vulnerable. According to ABS data, in 2017–18 while 2.6 per cent of Australians, aged 15 years and older, experienced face-to-face threatened assault, the victimisation rate for 15 to 24 year olds was 3.1 per cent.
In the same period an estimated 2.4 per cent of all people over 15 experienced physical assault, while the rate for young people, aged 15-24, was again higher at 3 per cent.
No Voice to Violence is a campaign launched in September 2019 by the WA Department of Education. The campaign targets secondary students in Years 7 to 10. It was informed by consultation with young people, parents and school staff.
This campaign aims to raise awareness of the implications of watching, sharing and clicking ‘like’ on fight videos and encourages young people to change their online behaviour.
Education Minister Sue Ellery said in a media release in September, it was important young people knew violence was against the law and children could be prosecuted for this type of unacceptable behaviour.
“This campaign encourages all of us to have conversations about violence and how it’s unacceptable,” she said.
“Parents play an important role in educating their children about violent behaviour, and part of the campaign will encourage them to talk to their children and report violence on social media.”
The campaign also teaches young people that there can be legal punishments not only for direct violence, like hitting and punching, but also for behaviours like shouting words of encouragement, like “go on, hit them”, and in some cases for posting or sharing videos of fights on social media.
Teachers can also play an important role in violence prevention, if they are trained in dealing with violent situations in the classroom.
Curtin University secondary education third-year student Tayla Anne says so far in her course she has not been taught anything about how to deal with violence in the classroom or emergency situations.
“When things get out of hand within the classroom, we are often told to remove the student from the room as quickly as possible, so none of the rest of the students are endangered, as a part of our duty of care role,” she says.
“Usually the head of school would be called to help deal with the situation or the deputy principal. If any physical violence or weapons are involved, the police would, of course, have to be called and the school would most often go into lockdown.
“However, it would be nice to be trained for situation like that.”