BULLYING: Parents, students tell horror stories from inside
CHILDREN are dropping out of schools, becoming "suicidal" and suffering in a bullying epidemic that is "out of control" in high schools across the region.
Parents - who say teachers and principals routinely ignore the issue - are crying out for a solution to the serious problem, which they say has not been addressed despite the tragic death of former Scots PGC College boarder Amy "Dolly" Everett earlier this year.
"I feel like every day I watch another beautiful part of my son die," were the devastating words of one mother, who decried an insidious culture of bullying at Warwick State High School.
The woman was among more than 25 parents and former students who used social media to speak out about a horrific culture that pervades schools across the Southern Downs.
Multiple reports of children becoming suicidal, being "bashed", threatened and told by teachers to leave the school because they "don't fit in" shed a disturbing light on the horror young children face when they enter school grounds.
"The teachers don't do anything, bullying is out of control," Kerry Francis said in response to a Facebook post asking for reviews of Warwick State High School.
Teachers face accusations of abuse
Another Warwick mother said students weren't the only ones abusing children in the classroom.
The woman, whose son attends Warwick State High School, filed an official complaint last term after her child was allegedly sworn at by a teacher.
During a lesson, her son reportedly asked another student which page to turn to when the teacher approached his desk.
"The teacher walks up and grabs the book and turns to the page and slams it on the desk and says 'do you need me to wipe your arse as well?'" the mother said.
The woman said she was horrified by the behaviour and the impact it had on her son.
"It humiliated him in front of the whole class," she said.
"He doesn't want to go, I have to drag him to school and I hate it."
After making an official complaint about the allegations, the woman reportedly received a letter from the school saying there was "sufficient evidence" to support her concerns.
But the woman was not notified of any disciplinary action and understands the teacher is still teaching at the school.
On other occasions, her son's jumper was cut with scissors by students and he has repeatedly been called names.
"It is abuse, and nothing is being done about it," the mother said.
Hearing other stories and complaints, the woman said she wanted parents to unite and demand a change in the school's approach to bullying.
"Basically they need to open their eyes and treat every child as the same," she said.
Warwick headspace manager Travis Maguire said bullying was a serious issue not confined to one school.
"I wouldn't say the bullying referrals have escalated but it has remained quite steady. Unfortunately it is always something we get through the doors," Mr Maguire said.
"It has just been constant across the board for a little while."
'I wasn't nice to be around'
Former Scots PGC boarder Lachlan Stewart said he didn't realise the impact bullying had on his mental health until he left the school in the middle of Year 8.
He was referred to a psychiatrist for depression and anxiety, and still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder more than a year later.
Lachlan said after a couple of years in the boarding house, the culture took a toll and he became suicidal.
"Amy Everett ... it's so sad what happened to her but I was constantly thinking of doing things like that too," he said.
Lachlan, now 14 and in Year9 at Arcadia College on the Gold Coast, said the culture of bullying rubbed off on him too.
"I wasn't a very nice person to be around after about a year of being there," he said. "I can see how negative impacts can rub off on good people."
Scots PGC principal Kyle Thompson said the school took concerns regarding bullying, past and present, and its responsibility student wellbeing extremely seriously.
"We are committed to ensuring that every member of our school community feels safe and valued at all times," he said.
"All students and parents are encouraged to raise any concerns they have with the school immediately so that action can be taken to address such matters."
Bullying is 'beyond politics'
Education Minister Grace Grace said Queensland had put the issue of bullying firmly on the national agenda with its anti-cyberbullying taskforce established in February.
"There is absolutely no place for bullying or violence in our schools," she said.
"We all have a role to play in modelling appropriate behaviours for our young people."
Southern Downs MP James Lister supported the taskforce but said the issue was "above politics".
"It broke my heart to hear that bullying played a part in the loss of one of our precious young people, but it's well and truly time to channel our hurt into action," he said.
"I feel strongly that we as politicians, parents, carers and everyday Queenslanders must work together to protect our kids from this insidious threat."
If you or anyone you know is affected by this story, call Crisis Care Helpline on 1800 199 008, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyondblue on 1300 224 636.