May 27, 2009

Teachers are 'worst school bullies'

Teachers entrusted with preventing bullying in Australian schools are bullying each other at alarming levels, university researchers have found. The biggest bullies are likely to be the principal or other school executives.

In a national online survey of more than 800 teachers, 99.6 per cent said they had experienced bullying in the workplace.

The Australian Catholic University and the University of New England surveyed state, Catholic and independent school teachers in 2007. The survey found that power imbalance was a factor in staff bullying.

Deidre Duncan, of the ACU, said state school principals received the worst rating for bullying.

"In government schools, the principal receives a significantly higher nomination as a frequent or persistent bully than found in independent or Catholic schools," Professor Duncan said.

"A total of 42 per cent of respondents in government schools said the bully was the principal."

Professor Duncan said such behaviour could be expected in "fairly bureaucratic organisations".

The behaviour most commonly identified by teachers as bullying was the withholding of information that affected performance, followed by the questioning of decisions, procedures and judgment.

Teachers also reported being bullied by parents.

Processor Duncan and co-researcher Dan Riley recommended a bullying ombudsman be appointed for teachers, awareness of staff bullying be raised, and a staff bullying register be established at each school.

Queensland Teachers' Union president Steve Ryan said teacher bullying was not as high as the voluntary on-line survey suggested but "it does represent an issue we are well aware of". He said more state government-funded workplace advisers were needed.

Education Minister Geoff Wilson said the research was a concern and he would ask his department to look into it.


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