Following another flurry of students speaking out about the situation at Armidale Secondary College, Principal Bree Harvey-Bice sent a condescending email to the school community on ‘Appropriate Communication’.
The issues of ongoing violence, bullying, and other anti-social behaviour has been concerning since Armidale High and Duval High were merged in 2018. An election issue last year, even Adam Marshall – one of the biggest champions of the ‘super school’ merger – has changed sides and met with Education Minister Prue Car in May of this year about the concerns.
From time to time a parent or student gets frustrated and makes a plea for help online, with the most common site being the ‘Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down! Armidale‘ group on Facebook. The popular group has over 13,000 members, or almost half the population of Armidale. This is where the most recent flurry of posts has occurred, with one anonymous post beginning with a title of ‘All is not okay in ASC’ particularly raising the Principal’s ire.
The post from a senior student at the school is largely defending the teachers and the school and blaming parents for their child’s poor behaviour. However, in a secondary point about locked bathrooms, the student tells that Ms Harvey-Bice replied to their concerns by saying ‘What do you want me to do?’. The Principal retuned fire with an email to the entire ASC email list entitled ‘Appropriate Communication’.
Belittling the student for being insulting, inexperienced and ignorant, the email – described as ‘condescending’ and ‘rude’ by the parents who forwarded it to the New England Times – includes an instruction from Ms Harvey-Bice that the best way to address issues is to make an appointment with an appropriate team member. She also encourages the student to come and speak to her, apparently missing the point that the student had already done that and thus was able to quote her dismissive response.
“There are polite and productive ways to raise issues that you have with the school,” the email reads.
“Sledging the school, community or staff online is a poor way to address issues and leads to little but causing unnecessary stress on an already overworked faculty.”
The Principal also made a video that was distributed to senior students. Two students reacted to the video from the principal saying they believed she was trying to silence students, and started a petition titled ‘ASC Needs to Change‘.
“This petition is to disagree with the principals video and make her listen to the kids and the parents,” the petition reads.
The New England Times understands the petition was quickly put up out of anger and has not been shared or promoted in any way to try and get signatures. One of the students also contacted us to make clear that the rumours they were threatened with suspension for starting the petition were not true. We agreed not to include her name because she feared disciplinary action.
“I just don’t want people to get the wrong information about that specific detail. Some people have been told me and my friend where threatened with a suspension over the petition, this is not true,” the student wrote.
“We were not threatened with a suspension at all, however, we were treated like it was going to go that way.”
The student said the issues they were trying to raise with the Principal included suicide and mental health, their clothes being destroyed during their period due to being unable to change pads or tampons throughout the day because the bathrooms are locked, and the lack of communication from the Principal.
This story is part of a series the New England Times is working on about Armidale Secondary College. As the school’s leadership works on ‘codesigning a new vision’ for the school, reports of violence, bullying, and other issues within the school are not dying down. We want to hear your stories – the good and the bad – whether you’re a student, parent, teacher, or other interested member of the community.
Some of the content in these stories is distressing. If you or anyone you know needs help, please contact:
- Lifeline on 13 11 14
- Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
- Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636
- Headspace on 1800 650 890