Schools risk being sued by parents over their failure to provide a safe place for students – both online and offline – as smartphones become the “weapon of choice” for bullies.
Schools risk being sued by parents over their failure to provide a safe place for students – both online and offline – as smartphones become the “weapon of choice” for bullies.

Premier rejects school smartphone ban despite online evils

KIDS are using phones at school to snap classmates in change rooms, watch pornography and send suicide taunts.

But Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is refusing to ban smartphones, despite demanding a cyberbullying crackdown through the Council of Australian Governments.

The Sunday Mail can today reveal a spate of sickening cyber cruelty among Queensland students, who are foiling school wi-fi filters by using the cellular data on their phones.

​Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham yesterday called for a ban on phone use in school time.

"There's almost no reason students shouldn't have their phones switched off and in their locker while they're at school,'' he told The Sunday Mail.

Annastacia Palaszczuk says decisions about the use of mobile phones during school hours should be made by principals.
Annastacia Palaszczuk says decisions about the use of mobile phones during school hours should be made by principals.

"Although learning to work with technology is essential, phones can be a distraction from lessons and a platform for bullying unless schools have the right policies in place.''​

The recent suicide of 14-year-old schoolgirl Amy "Dolly" Everett after cyber-bullying has failed to stop the hateful messages spread by cowardly teens on social media.

One Queensland girl was sent a message on Instagram last week stating: "Why don't you do what Dolly did, we'd be better off without you?''

Brisbane police are investigating taunts sent to another Queensland teenager urging her to kill herself. Children have even started using the acronym "KYS" - short for "kill yourself'' - and sending links to suicide websites.

"Cyber cop'' Susan McLean yesterday demanded a ban on phones in schools, saying schools risked being sued by the parents of cyberbullying victims over messages sent during school hours.

Ms McLean - who advises the Federal Government as a member of its Cyber Safety Working Group - said she was flooded with inquiries from schools, parents and legal firms about the legality of phones in schools.

“Cyber cop’’ Susan McLean has demanded a ban on phones in schools.
“Cyber cop’’ Susan McLean has demanded a ban on phones in schools.

"I am seeing the most violent, vulgar, horrible comments you can imagine,'' she told The Sunday Mail.​

"Lots of kids are being told to kill themselves and sent links to suicide websites.''

Ms McLean said students were being shown pornography and bestiality at school on phones. In one case, boys were watching porn on the school bus on their way to sport.

"I have kids being photographed in change rooms during sport,'' she said.

"There should be no personal devices used during the school day - it has to be against school rules.''

Ms McLean said she was helping a Tasmanian school where students had used school wi-fi to download an app and watch pornography on iPads in science classes.

"Schools risk being sued by parents over their failure to provide a safe place for students - both online and offline,'' she said. "Duty of care is a legal tenet applicable to every school in Australia.''

A spokesman for Ms Palaszczuk said "decisions about the use of mobile phones during school hours are for the principal, in consultation with the school community".

Federal eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant says schools must have “robust policies and procedures in place around technology use’’.
Federal eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant says schools must have “robust policies and procedures in place around technology use’’.

"As the Premier has made repeatedly clear, the greater issue with mobile phones and other devices is that they allow bullying, that would once have stayed at school, to follow students home," he said.

"The Government is willing to listen to ideas put forward.

"However, it is very important to ensure that major changes do not have unintended consequences."

Ms McLean said the Education Department should mandate ​a blanket ban, instead of letting principals make up their own rules.

​Senator Birmingham said "those running school systems need to lead from the front with firm policies that ensure the problem isn't just left to hardworking teachers and principals''.

State Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said mobile phones were the "weapon of choice for bullies''.

Federal eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said schools must have "robust policies and procedures in place around technology use''.

But Queensland Teachers Union president Kevin Bates said it was difficult to ban smartphones at school because parents objected when phones were confiscated.

"I don't accept blanket bans,'' he said. "Teachers often deal with the fallout when devices go missing or get damaged.''

Child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg said smartphones must be banned in primary schools and kids needing them  for "security purposes'' should be given ones with no internet access.

 



Is Rockhampton in line for a new District judge?

Is Rockhampton in line for a new District judge?

Attorney-General announces two more for bench

Rocky bowls club with huge power bill debt could be saved

premium_icon Rocky bowls club with huge power bill debt could be saved

Electricity provider agrees to keep power on and MPs step in to help

World awaits for CQ soccer teams after international comp

premium_icon World awaits for CQ soccer teams after international comp

CQ REDBACKS to head to Hervey Bay for Joey's Mini World Cup

Local Partners