Staff at one of South Australia's toughest schools - for youths in detention and other troubled teens - are demanding a senior Education Department official be banned from its campuses because of alleged bullying.
An organisation representing school leaders says it is one of several cases of departmental officials bullying principals into tears and to the point where they need to take leave.
A dispute over staffing levels and class sizes at the Youth Education Centre - spread across three sites, including the Adelaide Youth Training Centre for young people in custody - has escalated into an industrial stouch.
The Sunday Mail has obtained three letters from Australian Education Union state president Howard Spreadbury sent this week to senior department figures.
In one letter, Mr Spreadbury told chief executive Rick Persse the official's behaviour had "led to staff being (psychologically injured", feeling un-safe and to "fear for the wellbeing of colleagues".
The claims included "intimidatory" and "bullying" behaviour toward the principal "so that he will accept unworkable budgets that breach the Enterprise Agreement 2016", and "negative and inappropriate comments about other leaders at the school".
The union alleges the departmental official tied to impose staffing changes they did not have power to implement.
The union has demanded that the departmental official do not visit Youth Education Centre sites and not manage or contact any staff.
The Sunday Mail has been told that after staff rejected the official's proposals, an abusive phone call was received by the principal, attacking him and other staff.
The principal has taken sick leave.
SA State School Leaders Association chief executive John Gregory said it was not an isolated case.
"If a principal in a school did this (to their staff) they would be up for investigation," Mr Gregory said.
Mr Spreadbury said the leaking of his correspondence was "unhelpful" and potentially "very, very damaging to the hopes of resolving a "difficult and sensitive situation".
Principal 'bullied' by senior official, Tim Williams, P. 16, The Advertiser, 6 August 2017
In the 70s and 80s you had to have good school results and be literate to get into an education degree at Uni.
Standards have dropped because they let too many poor students into Uni.
This stupid mentality of everyone can go to Uni has devalued degrees and Masters and PhDs.
It is pathetic.
At least private schools can get rid of dud teachers.
In DECS they just get promoted and moved into an office tower to do very little.
Library, Reader's Comment, l, Miles Kemp, The Courier-Mail, 8 January 2017
As a teacher who has been out of uni for three years, I'm yet to find anything that even slightly resembles stability.
I have approached country and metro schools with little luck in finding something secure.
I attend expensive PD courses and engage with professional networks, volunteer and participate in extra-curricular events, but at a loss.
I went through an education degree being told that there was a teacher shortage and permanent jobs would be almost guaranteed, but I know teachers who have been contracting with the South Australia Department for Education and Child Development for over 15 years without being able to get permanent roles.
If even they can't get something secure, then what hope do I have?
It is hard when you choose your profession because you have a genuine fire in your belly to help and inspire young people but there is so much competition that even finding a relief teaching job can seem impossible at times.
I know people at uni who should have graduated by now but they have been forced to stay at uni while they wait for a place to open up in a school to undertake their professional placements as there are too many students and not enough schools to support them.
Unfortunately I fear it will only get worse.
This kind of thing is contributing to the upcoming generations of teachers not even being able to dream of owning a home or settling down anywhere permanent.
It drives the genuine hard workers out of teaching because they soon learn that a life living day to day in hopes of getting asked to work for even half a day wears thin and is not sustainable.
What's worse is the detriment to the learning of young people who never know who will be teaching them because teachers come and go faster than they can blink.
I finished my teaching degree in 1996.
I spent 8 years on contract.
Finally I got sick of the uncertainty and I have been working in an office for the past 10 years.
As a male teacher with over 30 years' experience who has just returned from a 615 day directed leave from a false student allegation, I would not recommend any male entering the teaching profession.
Male teachers are unfairly subjected to false accusations.
I know from first-hand experience with my husband.
After 23 years, I'm out!
Sick of -
* the Political Correctness,
* the "kids are always right" attitude in South Australian state schools,
* the time-wasting brainwashing of staff meetings and "development days"which push particular philosophies,
* the kids sent on from primary school with a reading age of Year 4, which is somehow my responsibility to fix,
* the "reinventing the wheel" every time some departmental bigwig gets a PhD - which is then implemented even though it is a stupid idea.
But the current crop of political principals (who have a lot in common with Colonel Cathcart) finished me.
Too much extra cr-p to deal with that interferes with getting into the classroom and teaching kids.
Paul D, Reader's Comment, Why are so many teachers fleeing the classroom? Brooke Lumsden, news.com.au 8 October 2015
Some principals and assistant principals are not only poor teachers and poor administrators, but also poor leaders and have poor people skills.
Some even threaten parents with a lawsuit if they mention (without using the name of any person or any school) a negative experience.
They care about reputation, not results, and definitely not staff, students or parents.
(Including directing teachers to make students panic about NAPLAN and keeping struggling students from doing the test, instead of doing it as an indicator of the strengths and weaknesses of each student, each teacher, and each school, so the teaching methods can be improved and kids can learn better.)
There needs to be a three-strike system, otherwise governments are opening themselves up for massive class action lawsuits from the systemic bullying.
Adam of Adelaide, Why are so many teachers fleeing the classroom? Brooke Lumsden, news.com.au . 8 October 2015
Frustrated teacher, Reader's Comment, Burnt out teachers offered $50,000 carrot to make way for young graduates, Sheradyn Holderhead, Adelaide Now, 26 July 2012
Some of the bullying that occurs in schools is pretty subtle.
Principals can, in my current experience, have a very top down approach to policies and procedures.
These principals do not invite feedback or input.
They belittle or sideline dissent.
Teachers then have less say in what goes on around them.
The teachers retreat, and get crushed by this over time.
This sort of Principal treats their own leadership team in almost the same way.
They do not get leaders into their team who are questioners or reflectors.
Often people they want on their team are those who are just good at 'following the leader', and telling them what they want to hear.
Bob of Adelaide, Reader's Comment, Workplace bullying an everyday occurrence in schools, say teachers, Jessica Marszalek, Herald Sun, Adelaide Now, 23 September 2012
I was bullied by a principal and it lost me my mental health and my job when I was at an age when getting another job proved impossible.
Since 2001 I have only managed to get casual work despite doing retraining courses etc. (at my own expense) because I am over 55.
Ex-teacher of Adelaide, Reader's Comment, Workplace bullying an everyday occurrence in schools, say teachers, Jessica Marszalek, Herald Sun, Adelaide Now, 23 September 2012
My bully was my aide.
She worked when she wanted to, over-ruled any decisions I made, told me all teachers were useless and that she know more because she had been there twenty years and had seen teachers come and go.
She undermined me with students, fellow teachers and any one who would listen to her gossip and lies.
The best day of my life was the day I finished teaching.
I thank God every day that I do not have to endure bullying and a hostile working environment any more.
Janet Williams of Saskatchewan and Streaky Bay (South Australia), Reader's Comment, Workplace bullying an everyday occurrence in schools, say teachers, Jessica Marszalek, Herald Sun, Adelaide Now, 23 September 2012
Until positions for Management in schools are earned by those teachers who have studied and qualified specifically in Management (especially People Management), then "bully" behaviour by school principals will continue.
At the moment, if you are in the right "network", and you can talk / write "edu-speak" - you can merrily move up the management pole.
Most of the people currently in school management positions have very poor people-skills, having only learned to manage children at Teacher's College.
They do not realise there is any difference, so they resort to "Bully" behaviour to get their own way - which, sadly, due to the power of their position, happens.
Many school principals, following current available criteria, can simply be classified as psychopaths.
Julianne of Adelaide, Comment 36 of 39, Workplace bullying an everyday occurrence in schools, say teachers, Jessica Marszalek, Herald Sun, Adelaide Now, 23 September 2012
SA's Employee Ombudsman is investigating a spike in complaints from public servants stood down - some even marched from their workplace in front of colleagues - after being told they were "mentally unfit" to work under Section 56 of the Public Service Act.
Premier Jay Weatherill, as Public Sector Minister, changed the Act in 2009, giving department chief executives the right to hire and fire staff.
Staff believed to be not performing "satisfactorily" can be ordered to undergo a psychiatric or physical evaluation to prove they are still "mentally fit" to work.
Employee Ombudsman Stephen Brennan, the Public Service Association and industry advocates, said Section 56 was being abused, especially in education, health and Housing SA departments, which had a noticeable rise in the sanctions.
Mr Brennan said the use of Section 56 "appeared to reach something of a peak in about February this year (2012)", with 15 cases presented to his office.
"It was being used in ways it was not intended and the result is very damaging to the individuals and their families and what happens is many end up on WorkCover," he said.
Industrial psychologist Chris Hamilton said he had assessed many people on Section 56 sanctions who "demonstrated mental integrity and sanity".
"The way in which it appears to have been used ... appears to be an extraordinary misuse of the section, if not abuse ... tantamount to workplace bullying," he said.
Workplace consultant and former employee ombudsman Gary Collis, who has also helped people given Section 56 sanctions, said he had seen "sufficient evidence there are many employees who have had that section used against them for the wrong reasons".
"What a great tool Section 56 is for bullying - if you don't like someone or someone starts questioning your motive, you can just slap a Section 56 and then you don't have to worry about that person any more," Mr Collis said.
PSA chief industrial officer Peter Christopher said Section 56 matters took a "horrendous" amount of time to resolve, employees were unaware of appeal rights and psychiatrists were often provided with minimal "evidence" for an evaluation.
The teacher was taken by ambulance to Flinders Medical Centre where he was treated for a burst blood vessel in his eye and cuts to his left cheek.
Second teacher attack within a week, Education Writer Emily Watkins, Sunday Mail (SA), 3 December 2011
Over the past eight years, 2119 South Australian teachers have sought interstate registration.
So why do so many teachers leave the state?
Students coming up through teaching courses in SA see the writing on the wall; they judge what they're really in for are short-term contracts, an (at best) indifferent department, and a constant struggle for wage parity.
So they leave.
Francis Thomas McDonald, an overworked and harassed former schoolteacher, has been awarded about $370,000 damages after successfully suing the state of South Australia.
Mr McDonald claimed he was harassed, victimised and bullied as a computer teacher at Brighton Secondary School.
In 2001 he went on sick leave.
Mr McDonald, 60, had a keen interest in computing.
Mr McDonald had voluntarily helped set up and maintain school computer networks during his time at Brighton Secondary School.
Much of his work fell outside the boundaries of his contract as a teacher.
Mr McDonald represented himself during the trial.
Mr McDonald alleged that he was victimised and bullied.
The judge ruled in favour of Mr McDonald's claims his treatment by the department left him with no option but to resign.
"Mr McDonald was justified in taking the action that he did," Justice Anderson said.
Justice Anderson awarded Mr McDonald $369,100 in damages for loss of past and future earnings as well as loss of reputation and dignity.
Bullied teacher wins $370,000 payout, Andrew Dowdell, Court Reporter, The Advertiser, 25 May 2008
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