Parents vent their displeasure on social media, school staff feels attacked

“It’s one of those things that affects a headmaster’s well-being.”

In Gledswood Hills, replacing headteacher Nicole Egan sent a letter to parents on Monday addressing the concerns raised, but also cautioned against social media.

She said that during the break the congregation was to “relearn” the expected behavior and students were “encouraged to provide information” related to the vandalism.

Denise Lofts, Deputy President of the NSW Secondary Principals' Council.

Denise Lofts, Deputy President of the NSW Secondary Principals’ Council.

“Using any other means, including social media, is not appropriate for voicing your concerns… I would also like to address the idea that not only is it inappropriate for anyone, be it staff, students or other parents, to address these Naming and shaming platforms but it might even be a legal matter,” she wrote.

A spokeswoman for the NSW Department of Education denied that pupils had been forced to sit still during lunch breaks, as some parents had suggested, but said the school had held a gathering to reinforce expected standards of behaviour.

“The meeting lasted 30 minutes. Students were not forced to sit in a room in silence and miss their lunch break,” she said. The students were allowed to eat their lunch in the hall.

It’s about the 20th time the school toilets have been vandalized this year.

One parent said that while parents’ concerns about what happened last Friday were justified, others, who compared the school to a prison camp, were unhelpful.

“It’s blown up because post-COVID parents aren’t allowed to go to school … there’s no way for us to communicate,” the parent said.

“From all the reports I’ve heard it didn’t sound like a gathering – they all felt it was punishment and unfair treatment.”


To improve communication with parents, the NSW Department of Education set up a new team last year to provide parents with more information about their children’s education, resolve their disputes with schools and assist pupils with disabilities support.

E-Safety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said the size of some school communities could lead to increased levels of online abuse within those communities.

“Examples may include filming school staff and circulating footage online with negative comments, judgments or discussions about outward appearance, harmful allegations, or even organized campaigns to fire targeted staff,” she said.

She said social media platforms should enforce their own terms of service to detect and stop targeted abuse.

“They need to start taking responsibility for arming their platforms by those who want to target individuals and groups,” she said.

“In addition, I would like to ask everyone, including parents of school children, to be aware of their personal responsibility and to think about the consequences of acting online. While some people might feel [that] Disposable nasty or offensive comments are not a big deal, they can harm individuals in the real world.”

Educational psychologist Professor Herb Marsh of the Australian Catholic University, who leads Australia’s annual survey on health, safety and well-being at work, said threats from parents were becoming more common.

“Certainly for the school principal, he’s exposed to more critical parental input online than he’s ever had before,” he said.

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Justin Scaccy

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