More Support Required for Special Needs Students in School Violence: Xamon

Concerns have been raised for the needs of special needs students involved in school fights, following increasing levels of children with disabilities involved in schoolyard violence.

WA Greens education and disability spokesperson Alison Xamon has called for more support, claiming more understanding was needed for special needs students, amid State Government plans to increase suspensions for violent children.

Mrs Xamon said violence by special needs children has been misunderstood, despite data revealing 26 per cent of school violence cases in 2018 involved special needs children, following 36 per cent of 2000 cases in 2017.

“What we don’t have is the detail about what the nature of the special needs of the children who got caught up in those violent situations were,” she said.

She claimed special needs children were not getting the help they needed.

“What we do know is that reporting back from families of children with special needs is that often they don’t get enough one-on-one daily assistance,” Mrs Xamon said

However, she said violence was not acceptable including students with special needs “who may be lashing out,” but violence by them had to be differentiated to violence by other students.

Mrs Xamon believed classroom environments needed to be examined to create a “calm” working and learning environment for teachers and students.

“Look at on a case-by-case basis what is happening for that child what little support is being made available. What is happening with that classroom environment. What sort of supports need to be looked at,” she said.

Her comments came as WA education minister Sue Ellery claimed she needed to “draw a line in the sand” over violent incidents, to ensure more students were suspended in a new action plan over schoolyard fights.

State School Teachers Union president Pat Byrne said the data reinforced Mrs Ellery’s decision.

The statistics, which were released in parliament, showed 3000 incidents of school violence occurred in WA public schools in the past 18 months.

Teachers had faced around 900 cases of threats or assaults in the first half of the year, with 114 cases referred to police.

Mrs Ellery said the action plan would involve “trigger points for automatic suspension”.

“A change would be to put in place an automatic trigger for suspension and again making it clearer the decisions, the factors that need to be taken into account when we’re talking about excluding a student as well,” she said.

However, the plan was “not directed at those students with a disability”.

“This policy is directed at those students who initiate violence with intent is the way to describe it I think. So there are students with a disability who as a function of their disability are not able to regulate their own behaviour,” Mrs Ellery said.

Mrs Byrne said the majority of students were well behaved, but there were significant problems in a small number of schools.

She said the plan would ensure teacher safety.

“Teachers feel that there’s far more support and consideration given to the students involved rather than they as victims,” she said.

“They should not be in a situation of feeling that they are at risk when they go to school and they should also know absolutely that if anything does happen to them, their employer is supporting them a hundred per cent.”

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