The Sunday Age
21 August 2016
A VCE student was forced to face her violent ex-boyfriend every day in the classroom, despite taking out an intervention order.
The other classes were full, the students' teacher said, before instructing them to sit on opposite sides of a "tiny" classroom.
"They [teachers] didn't even talk to me about the order," said the perpetrator, David*. "They just told me to sit in a different spot," he said of the incident of a few months ago.
It comes months after Fairfax Media revealed that a Somerville Secondary College student, who was bashed with a skateboard and called a "gay faggot", sought a restraining order against his bully, yet was also put in the same class as the perpetrator.
Students are resorting to intervention orders to protect themselves from classmates, in cases of bullying, sexual abuse, harassment and relationship breakdowns.
The most recent Children's Court statistics show more than 870 children were placed on family violence intervention orders in Victoria in 2014 - almost doubling in the past five years.
Jo Howard, who works with schools in managing youth violence at Kildonan Uniting Care, warned that violence in schools was also on the rise, yet schools lacked the resources needed to manage the complex problem.
She said in many cases, adolescent boys who were exposed to violence at home were lashing out at school peers, girlfriends or siblings at school.
"Family violence impacts on an adolescent's ability to negotiate conflict and regulate their own emotions and deal with stress … it can make young people more prone to lashing out or solving issues through the use of violence."
Anoushka Jeronimus, the youth crime program manager from Legal Aid, has worked on several cases where students have sought orders against school bullies.
She said students were increasingly seeking orders due to bullying on social media, while other cases involved pranks that resulted in serious injury.
Domestic Violence Victoria's policy and program manager, Alison Macdonald, said it was inappropriate to keep a victim in the same class as a student against whom they took an intervention order.
"It is extremely concerning. If an intervention order is taken against someone, it means that they are fearful of that person, and I think that schools definitely need to take those issues very seriously."
Ms Macdonald said schools were not adequately equipped to deal with youth violence, describing a "patchwork" style of services in schools' handling of adolescent violence.
"We have individual schools doing this very well, but these things need consistency across the system and I don't think they have necessarily got that yet."
Ms Howard said there were not enough community support services available for violent adolescents.
"There is a real gap in the system in providing a response to young men who are violent towards their partners, their parents, siblings or peers," she said.
"Rightly or wrongly, there has been a strong focus on adult family violence, however we need to also have a strong focus on adolescence and preventing adult family violence through supporting adolescents in their journey to adulthood."
A Victorian Education Department spokesman said it was up to schools to effectively oversee intervention orders, and manage how those orders would impact the school community.
David* is not his real name.