Source: The Newcastle Herald

VIOLENCE and antisocial behaviour in Hunter public schools was up 40 per cent in 2012 on the year before, with 166 incidents reported including 70 assaults, according to Department of Education figures.

Among the incidents, a toy gun was used to pretend to shoot students, a teacher was locked in an office, hair was lit on fire and a student punched a rival in a love triangle.

The rise may be due to increased reporting of incidents, rather than more occurring, the department said. But it has prompted a call from the teachers federation for schools to use some of their Gonski funding to cope.

In addition to the 70 assaults, there were 25 threats, 10 incidents involving drugs, 25 involving weapons such as knives, screwdrivers, skateboards, furniture and sticks and branches, and 36 deemed as “other”.

In one incident, a year 8 student at a Lake Macquarie high school made threats to harm and stab another student, who was taken to the office. The student continued to make threats and walked around the school banging on doors and windows looking for the student, before the school was put into lockdown.

At another school, a year 10 student collapsed and briefly lost consciousness after being punched in the mouth for kissing another student’s girlfriend.

In a Newcastle high school, a year 7 student sprayed a can of deodorant into a bottle, lit the fumes and squeezed the bottle at another student, with flames singeing the other’s hair.

At a Port Stephens high school a year 4 student threw items around a classroom, upturned furniture and damaged a keyboard. Students were evacuated and the student started walking around the school with a metre-long stick, hitting windows and doors, before the school was placed in lockdown and police called.

At a Lake Macquarie high school a student held a pocket knife to the throats of two classmates.

At another lakeside school, a year 10 girl on suspension waited outside her school and attacked a year 12 girl, punching her in the head and continuing to do so after she fell to the ground, causing a concussion and bruising.

At a central Hunter school, two year 9 girls suspected to be under the influence of alcohol and behaving erratically, running around the school screaming and yelling, were restrained by police and taken by ambulance to hospital.

Teachers did not escape unscathed and were verbally threatened, pushed, hit, bitten, kicked, spat at, punched, scratched, locked in offices and the target of thrown pavers, rocks and screws.

The brother of a central Hunter student disrupted an assembly to pretend to shoot students with a toy gun. He punched and scratched the principal and another staff member who intervened.

In another school a year 9 student who had been suspended for defying a teacher locked a teacher and himself in the office and refused to open the door until police arrived.

At a Lake Macquarie high school a year 8 boy became abusive, kicked an oven door and threw a chair through a window, shattering glass over staff cars. He picked up a knife and threatened to kill a teacher, before smashing another window and threatening another teacher with glass, knives and skewers.

Threats were also made using technology, by text message and on social networking sites, and preceded some confrontations.

In one incident a year 11 student at a Central Hunter school used the internet to threaten students who had been bullying him.

A student at a Lake Macquarie school sent inappropriate images to two other students, who then showed the images to peers.

In another incident, a student was found with images of a sexual nature featuring children on their iPad and personal computer.

Some assaults, including fights, were recorded on mobile phones.

NSW Teachers Federation organiser for Newcastle and the Upper Hunter Jack Galvin Waight said schools would need to put some of the funding they expected to receive under the Gonski National Plan For School Improvement towards combating violent and antisocial behaviour.

“Schools desperately need funding and resources to go towards behaviour modification strategies and different programs to alleviate these problems,” Mr Waight said.

“These latest figures show the variety of incidents teachers encounter on a daily basis. I don’t think that we would have been dealing with these kinds of incidents 40 years ago.”

A Department of Education spokesperson said more than 90 per cent of NSW public schools did not need to report a single incident during the fourth term of 2012.

“Since 2005, principals have been able to report all incidents involving assault, threats, intimidation, weapons, illegal drugs or criminal activity to the School Safety and Response Hotline in Safety and Security Directorate,” the spokesperson said.

“The number of serious incident reports has increased over the years. This is not necessarily due to an increase in serious incidents.

“The department’s Safety and Security Directorate has been educating and encouraging schools to report incidents, which they may not have previously reported.”

As well as 70 assaults there were a number of threats, incidents involving drugs and 25 involving weapons such as knives.