A former teacher who was brutally bashed at a school in Perth’s south that is notorious for violence has spoken out about her ordeal because of her concerns the school is still letting down vulnerable teenagers.
The teacher, who was kicked and punched so hard by a student that she was taken to hospital, has written to Education Minister Sue Ellery asking why public schools are still referring students to the non-government SMYL Community College after a string of violent incidents.
A police report on the teacher’s assault says a female student grabbed her by the hair and forced her to the ground after smashing through a closed glass-panelled door to get into her office.
“While the victim was on the floor, the accused continued with a barrage of punches and kicks to the victim’s head,” the police report said. “The attack only stopped when three staff members intervened by standing over the victim, with one dragging the accused away.”
A vicious student mob attack on two tradesmen at the school’s Rockingham campus in February last year triggered a formal investigation of the school’s compliance with Education Department registration standards for non-government schools.
Graphic footage of the shocking ambush posted online showed the tradesmen fending off punches while surrounded by up to 10 students shouting “bomb him”, while another climbed on their ute and kicked in the windscreen.
Circulation of the sickening video images on social media led to widespread media attention. But details of the attack on the teacher which took place in September 2020 — five months before the tradie bashing incident — have never been publicised.
The student was dealt with in the Children’s Court. The teacher required hospital treatment for a swollen lip, semi-loss of consciousness, multiple bruises and contusions across her body.
After being diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, she was forced to end her 30 year teaching career and agreed to a settlement out of court.
The teacher, who wished to be known only as “Kay”, said in her letter to Ms Ellery the attacks on her and the tradesmen were not isolated.
“They form part of many critical incidents that have been reported to the Education Department over the years that SMYL has operated as a school,” she said.
With six campuses from Fremantle to Rockingham, SMYL is a CARE (Curriculum and Re-Engagement in Education) school that enrols teens with poor attendance, behavioural issues or poor academic achievement who have disengaged from mainstream schools.
Kay said even though the students had complex needs, they were stuck in poor quality buildings with staff who were not always fully qualified teachers.
“The buildings that SMYL use as educational facilities are poor, inappropriate and not fit for purpose,” she wrote.
“Attempting to educate our most ‘at risk students’ on industrial estates shows a poor understanding of their complex needs, and reinforces to them that this is all they are worth.”
“I want to understand how a school that presents so many risks to students and staff is able to continue to operate as an educational institution.”
Ms Ellery said the Education Department had looked into concerns raised about the college last year and made several recommendations.
“Since the incidents in 2021, I am advised that the college’s leadership has changed and steps have been taken to significantly improve student and staff safety,” she said. “My office has referred the most recent concerns to the department for consideration in the context of the college’s current operations.”
SMYL principal Liz Parker said since the new leadership team began, standards had been reviewed in all areas.
“These areas include but are not limited to student/staff safety and wellbeing, curriculum delivery and the maintenance of welcoming and context-appropriate educational settings,” she said.
“Varied and supportive educational pathways, delivered by appropriately qualified professionals to a high standard, will continue to be our focus as a fully registered school.”