From the Principal

Think before you attack

Thankfully vandalism is fairly rare at St Columba but not so in all schools…….“Students at Gledswood Hills Public School were in trouble. It was 1.30pm last Friday and the bathrooms had been vandalised: hardware had been ripped off and the walls had been pelted with wet toilet paper. Staff at the school said the students spent much of their break afterwards being lectured about vandalism and retaught about the responsible use of public property as part of the school’s positive behaviour for learning strategy.”

Unfortunately, almost every school will have something like this happen at some time.

It would seem to me that the school in this article’s response was appropriate, measured and developmental (this had happened twenty times before the reported incident).

However, it seems some parents did not agree…”The school was likened to a prison camp; another described the event (assembling the students) as inducing ‘trauma,’ while one parent vowed that the ‘teachers present will be getting in trouble’”.

Let us be very clear in regard to what St Columba’s response would be to any parent (or member of the community) who decides to take to social media to make wild and unfounded accusations about our school: We will not tolerate the vilification of our School or its staff for our policies or carrying out the School’s procedures.

Not only is such behaviour contrary to our School’s enrolment contract:

Enrolment Policy
“St Columba Anglican School is a comprehensive co-educational K-12 school providing an education underpinned by Anglican values and operating within the policies of the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA). Once enrolled, students are expected to act consistently with the School’s ethos and comply with the School rules to maintain their enrolment.”

It may also be the basis for legal action:

“Schools are being urged to closely monitor parents’ social media activity and take action against defamatory comments and negative online petitions. Parents and students ranting against teachers and principals on social media are being sued by schools, with recent court payouts of more than $100,000 for some comments.”

This online behaviour by some parents is now becoming more common with parents venting what they see as their legitimate frustration with the school on social media and school staff feeling personally and professionally attacked.

Furious Facebook posts, abusive emails, school sit-ins, menacing behaviour: the bullying of staff by parents is becoming increasingly common and can have devastating consequences… A La Trobe University survey of 560 teachers found nearly two-thirds had been recently bullied by a parent. Parent-led bullying was more common in primary schools, with younger, female teachers the more likely victims. The most common form of parent-led bullying was verbal; yelling and arguing on behalf of a child.”

You can read the rest of this enlightening article from the Sydney Morning Herald here: The new school bullies aren’t children – they’re parents.

Sorry, but we have standards that we will maintain and we also have a legal responsibility to protect our staff from risk and threat.

We also have the right to take action to ensure the good operation of our School and the safety of our students and staff.

We will vigorously respond to actions such as those that have occurred in other schools: “School staff being filmed and footage distributed online with negative commentary, judgement or discussion about physical appearance, damaging allegations or even organised campaigns to remove targeted staff.”

We are happy to talk to parents if they have issues with what we do, but remind them that our enrolment contract requires “Parents to be supportive of the ethos of the School” and we have the right to act in accordance with our policies and procedures without being vilified on the phone, in person, online or in public conversation.

“Parents are behaving in ways once thought unimaginable. In researching this story, Good Weekend came across reports of parents going straight to the state education department if a teacher failed to hang a child’s unfinished work in the classroom, rifling through teachers’ desks, and asking for extra roles to be created in the school play because their child had missed out. They are staging sit-ins, hatching coup-like plots to topple principals, and tailgating educators in the car park. There are parents who undermine through gossip, often online, others with threats of legal action. And some are persistent, vexatious complainers, who pen 10-page emails with more capital letters and exclamation marks than Donald Trump’s Twitter feed.”

When/if you feel angry that the school has done something wrong, feel free to read our parent conduct expectations document and pause for a moment before picking up the phone or hitting the keyboard and making accusations, allegations or threats that could have serious ramifications. Read the document here.

And in case you are wondering, yes Principals do have the right to:

  • utilise relevant student discipline policies to, if necessary, remove students from school;
  • invoke the provisions of the Inclosed Lands Act 1901 to restrict persons from entering onto school premises;
  • implement and enforce appropriate codes of conduct and behaviour for students and visitors of the school site that are designed to minimise the risk of critical incidents arising.

Want to share your thoughts on this story, or do you have something you’d like to add? Email me at



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