Parents say a culture of violence and bullying is emerging at Greater Shepparton Secondary College in the wake of the merger of four secondary schools.
And students say not enough is being done to address the cause of the fights, after footage emerged of a brawl at the Mooroopna campus filmed on Wednesday last week.
The News spoke to seven parents and four students from the Mooroopna and Wanganui campuses who said they were concerned about ongoing violence since four government schools were merged and split across three campuses at the start of this year.
They will remain divided until the college's new state-of-the-art building is complete in 2022 when about 3000 students will be in the one facility at the site of the old Shepparton High School.
One Year 9 student at the Mooroopna campus said the fights were happening often.
She said the worst was at the end of Term 1 when a teacher was apparently injured.
“The fights at school are bad,” she said.
“At the end of Term 1, there was a fight so bad a teacher got hurt and the police were called.
“Lately, there’s been probably at least one a week.”
She said students were being suspended but it wasn't stopping the fights from happening.
“If somebody has a reason to fight, they are going to fight,” she said.
“Simply telling them not to won’t stop anything, and suspensions aren’t effective because a lot of people are continuing the fights once they get back to school anyway.
“The school could do a much better job at preventing the fights if they actually focused on the root of the problem, instead of suspending people and using old punishments that are obviously not working.”
The student, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, believed some fights were related to racial differences.
“The teachers should be focusing their energy they're using to ‘remodel the culture’ on actually educating people on their racism, instead of just telling us racism is bad.”
The student’s mother said she was concerned for her daughter's safety.
She said her daughter had not experienced the same level of fighting when she attended Wanganui Park Secondary College.
“It worries me,” the student's mother said.
“I don’t want her to be in that environment.”
The mother said she contacted the school via phone and went to see a learning mentor about what she was hearing from her daughter, but nothing changed.
“The culture has changed (compared to Wanganui Park Secondary),” she said.
Save our Schools chair Robyn Boschetti said she had spoken to about 20 parents who were concerned about fights at all three campuses.
“I'm hearing about large fights, suspensions, and threats continuing outside of school,” she said.
“Once you get all the students on one campus, it's going to get worse.”
She said she wasn't sure whether the issue could be resolved, and the Education Department and Goulburn Valley leaders needed to step up and do something "before it was too late".
When asked whether police had attended the McGuire campus on Monday, police confirmed they were called to Wilmot Rd about 2 pm following reports of two male youths fighting. Both boys received "minor abrasions" and the investigation is ongoing.
Police were also called to the corner of Archer St and Poplar Ave on Friday about 4.15 pm following reports of up to 15 teenagers fighting.
However, they did not confirm whether the teenagers were wearing Greater Shepparton Secondary College uniforms.
Greater Shepparton Secondary College executive principal Genevieve Simson said the incidents each involved "a small number of students".
“The college has taken appropriate action following the incident and wellbeing supports have been offered for affected staff and students,” she said.
“Any form of violence or bullying is completely unacceptable, and contrary to the values of GSSC.
“These incidents do not reflect the safe and supportive culture being built at Greater Shepparton Secondary College or the behaviour of the overwhelming majority of our students.”
The News also contacted the school in late February after hearing reports of fighting at the Mooroopna campus, in relation to which a department spokesperson said "bullying and violence is never acceptable".
“We are aware of a small number of isolated incidents that have taken place at the Mooroopna campus of the Greater Shepparton Secondary College,” the department spokesperson said.
“The department is working with the school to ensure these incidents are not repeated.”
If you have an experience of violence in school, email [email protected]
Police said anyone with information about the two incidents was urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
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