[Offtopic] Guidelines on schoolyard brawls

Geoff Moss geoffmoss37 at optusnet.com.au
Sun Aug 12 21:56:23 EST 2007

The lack of guidelines has always been a problem.

There have been documented cases where teachers have been found liable for not intervening, in fact standing back.  But if a teacher does intervene they lend themselves liable for legal action in relation to assault in today's litigious society.  However, a defence of reasonable intervention would generally protect the teacher should they exercise reasonable and prudent care when acting.

With this in mind I had 2 very interesting situations occur at my previous school.

1.  I decided to physically intervene between 2 Year 11 boys who were fighting in the school yard, obviously encouraged by baying students circling around them.  After successfully separating the students, with no serious injury to either student, I found out that had I not intervened when I did that a knife may have been used by one of the students or a friend of one of the opponents.
Outcome:  From the students involved I was later thanked for intervening and other students supported my actions.  The Principal took the action of criticising my actions and gave me a proper dressing down.

2.  When on yard duty in the school yard another teacher and I found a student who had lacerated his wrist after "putting his arm" through a window.  The blood was flowing freely and we immediately applied firm pressure to the injury and conveyed the student to the sic bay while an ambulance was summoned.  On arrival the ambulance officers congratulated us on our quick actions stating that we had most likely saved the student's life because an artery in the wrist had been severed. 
Outcome:  Student survived.  But the Principal roundly criticised us for not getting rubber gloves from sickbay first before applying pressure to the student's wrist.  It was no excuse that the sick bay was some 100 metres plus away and that we acted in the interests of the student first and foremost. Had we delayed the student's health and well-being would have deteriorated.

Clear guidelines??

In both cases I believe had the teachers not acted as they did they could have faced legal action for failing to render assistance and failing in their duty of care.

I am not suggesting that a teacher should physically intervene in a fight, but the lack of guidelines and the fact that every incident will be unique it is hard to define what teachers should do.  

My concern is that the community will expect us to do more than would any other person in the same situation if it occurred in the street.  Instance the number of people who walk past incidents in the street without intervening or even bothering to contact appropriate authorities.

Generally, courts have seen it fit to increase our duty of care in relation to students.  

I am concerned that guidelines set by an outside body may increase teacher duty of care in relation to students fighting in principle, with little regard to the physique and physical ability of a teacher to intervene and without regard to the physical size of students and the potential physical danger to teachers should they decide to intervene.

An increasingly litigious community only makes for a more difficult environment in which teachers have to work.

Teachers enter the profession because they want to teach and educate students and improve their learning environment, not to become referees for a student brawl.

My tuppence worth

Geoff Moss

> stephen at melbpc.org.au wrote:
"Teachers call for guidelines on schoolyard brawls"

Posted (on ABC website) 5 hours 30 minutes ago 

Victorian teachers are calling for official guidelines and training in how 
to respond to schoolyard fights.

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) has reviewed the 
actions of a teacher who refused to step in during a brawl at a high 
school, south-east of Melbourne.

VCAT found there are no set rules requiring teachers to physically 
intervene and that there appears to be no clear guidelines to advise 
teachers on appropriate actions.

Australian Teachers Union (ATU) spokeswoman Mary Bluett says teachers are 
concerned about the threat of litigation.

"When you are in a situation where a fight erupts, you are in two minds," 
she said. 

"Do I go in and physically touch a student and open myself up perhaps to 
legal action, or is the bigger issue my duty of care to prevent injury to 
that student."

The state's regulatory body, the Victorian Institute of Teaching, says it 
will examine VCAT's comments at its next executive meeting.

It says each school sets out its expectations of teachers in their 
employment contracts.

Cheers, people
Stephen Loosley
Victoria, Australia
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