Whilst “bullying” in schools has traditionally been focussed on “student on student bullying”, with some resources applied to managing potential “staff on staff bullying”, for many schools, the third force in bullying being “parent on staff bullying” is often ignored.
A recent article published by The Sunday Age makes for sobering reading, with Principals in some schools saying that staff have taken out intervention orders against parents for stalking or making violent threats. Whilst these types of extreme situations often arise from custody disputes and in cases of suspected child abuse, they can also arise simply because parents don't like decisions relating to their children.
Whatever the cause, “parent on staff bullying” appears to be a problem that is growing with almost $9 million of claims being paid out for stress and injury to 621 Principals and teachers since 2010 in Victoria alone.
All schools have an obligation to ensure that they maintain a safe workplace, and where a safety hazard such as “parent on staff bullying” is identified schools, school governors and executives have an obligation to assess the hazard in terms of likelihood and potential consequences and take action to either eliminate or reduce the hazard.
Given that it will not be possible to totally eliminate “parent on staff bullying” schools should implement controls. Examples of controls may include:
- the publication of a code of conduct for parents;
- the implementation of an effective complaints management system to ensure that parents have an avenue to be heard (refer to our recent article Poor complaints handling forces students and parents to social media ;
- an internal grievance mechanism that allows staff to report their own concerns and have them effectively dealt with;
- maintenance of records of “parent on staff bullying” incidents, which will allow a school’s executive to assess the extent of the problem, and most importantly to identify multiple offenders, and any other systemic trends.
For those readers who would like to have a better understanding of their Workplace Health & Safety obligations please refer to ComplISpace’s WHS Schools Whitepaper.