Council’s bullying plea

A mother’s passionate plea has driven Latrobe City Council to request a meeting with the State Education Minister to discuss alternative school bullying curriculums.

At Monday night’s council meeting Moe mother Susan Broadbent spoke of an “ineffective” state-wide school program that needed changing.

Her call follows the release of data by the Department of Education which revealed the district ranked seventh in the state for school bullying.

While Latrobe’s reported bullying numbers have dropped 14 per cent since 2006, Ms Broadbent told The Express more action was needed.

“A bullying rate of 26.6 per cent is not acceptable, there’s no acceptable number when it comes to bullying,” Ms Broadbent said.

“Obviously there needs to be more (done), there needs to be some sort of program.”

Ms Broadbent, a mother of five girls, has requested a change of curriculum to focus on the bully, not the bullied.

At the forefront of her appeal is a call to show mockumentary – drama film ‘A girl like her’ across secondary school classrooms.

The film focuses on a student who attempts suicide after ongoing bullying and the reaction of her peers.

“At the moment, the schools are showing a movie called ‘Cyberbully’, but speaking to my kids it’s quite a boring movie and it’s not (connecting with) them,” Ms Broadbent told council.

“That (‘A girl like her’) is a movie that really touched us, this is what we should be putting on in classrooms,” she said.

She praised the movie’s portrayal of the bully, who comes to the realisation her actions are wrong.

“The current curriculum is targeting the wrong people,” Ms Broadbent said.

“I think the bullies need a lot of help too and if we deal with them we wouldn’t need to help the victims – there would be none.”

Latrobe City deputy mayor Sharon Gibson said bullying at any level was never acceptable.

“Whether it is 26 per cent or two per cent, if you’re one of those two per cent it’s too high,” Councillor Gibson said.

She said council would write to Education Minister James Merlino to request a meeting to discuss anti-bullying initiatives.

“We’re not trying to tell the Education Department how to do its job, we are just saying to consider this movie (as part of the curriculum) because it’s so powerful,” Cr Gibson said.

“I see the video as a beginning; we have such a problem here. Nothing changes if nothing changes,” Cr Gibson said.

“Yes we have to work on people not being victims, but we also have to work on why the bully’s doing it as well – it is two-prong.”

Council will also meet with the region’s school principals to discuss further ideas to combat the issue.

Mr Merlino said the government was always open to new ways to reduce rates of bullying in schools and ensure they were safe environments for all students.

“Schools are responsible for choosing curriculum resources and programs that best meet the needs of their communities and help students reach their full potential,” Mr Merlino said.

“There are a range of programs available for schools, including Bully Stoppers, Respectful Relationships, Safe Schools and eSmart.”