A boy who was allegedly bullied by an older student, including being threatened with a knife, kicked, and hit around the head, has been expelled because his parents failed to show “courtesy and respect towards … staff members” when complaining about the school’s handling of the problem.
Catholic boys school Parade College expelled the year 7 student with a week’s notice in September last year after its principal Andrew Kuppe deemed that his parents had breached the school’s parent code of conduct.
The parents are seeking damages in the Supreme Court against Edmund Rice Education Australia, the school’s governing body, and Kuppe, alleging that the school breached its duty of care. They are also seeking their son’s re-enrolment at Parade, claiming the school wrongfully relied upon the parent code of conduct to expel him.
The boy, who is in year 8, has not enrolled in a new school and is learning remotely while seeing a psychologist. Until last year, he was a “popular and well-respected student with excellent grades [who] had achieved Student of the Month on a number of occasions”, a statement of claim filed with the court states.
The identity of the boy and his parents have been concealed in the court document.
The statement of claim details 18 alleged incidents between February and August last year involving the alleged bully, who is 18 months older than the boy. Some occurred at the college’s Preston campus and others outside school grounds.
The string of alleged incidents culminated in Victoria Police making an application for a restraining order against the older child, following a meeting between two police members, the bullied child’s mother and two school staff members at Parade College.
One alleged bullying incident during class time was captured on CCTV. According to a senior staff member’s written report, the footage reveals the older boy kicking his victim in the shins four times, putting him in a headlock for seven seconds, kicking him out of his seat and hitting him over the head more than 12 times with his beanie. The younger boy does not retaliate, but repeatedly moves away, kneels on the classroom floor and attempts to do his work.
Not all alleged bullying incidents detailed in the statement of claim were physical. In one example, the older boy took the younger boy’s laptop and replaced his school profile picture with an image of a tawny frogmouth. In another, he pointed to a poster on a school wall that read “Bullying is not OK” and stated while laughing, “Bullying is OK”.
The parents ultimately sought protection from police after the alleged bully produced a knife during a dispute over a gaming console.
A police application for an intervention order detailed an incident in June when the two boys were at a mutual friend’s house, playing video games. The older boy “pulled out a red pocket knife from his pocket and asked for the controller from the protected person”, it states.
“A further incident has been alleged whereby the respondent has threatened the affected family member with a knife to cause him to crawl through a dog door … to exit the room.”
“Police feel that an intervention order is required to address the matter and assist with a change of behaviour,” the application states.
The school terminated the enrolment of the victim of the alleged bullying one month later, before the intervention order could be enforced.
In an email to the parents, sent on September 16 and seen by The Age, college principal Andrew Kuppe said he had terminated their son’s enrolment at Parade because the relationship between the school and the parents had “become untenable”.
“[The] correspondence that you have sent has seriously damaged the relationship between yourselves and the college,” he wrote.
The parents had, Kuppe wrote, accused the college of taking no action and of “glaring complacency” in its handling of the bullying incidents.
“You have also made numerous derogatory comments about members of the college’s leadership team, such as accusing members of ‘incompetence’ and ‘flagrant negligence’ and questioned their ability to administer the college.”
The school also had concerns about the parents’ treatment of and behaviour towards another student of the college, Kuppe wrote.
A Parade College spokesperson declined to comment on the Supreme Court case but said: “Parade College takes the welfare of all students, staff and parents extremely seriously. It will defend the allegations made against it strenuously.”
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