Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

In the Armidale Secondary College newsletter released today, ASC Principal Bree Harvey-Bice apologised for two lines in an email sent to the school community on Monday.

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’. In the email, the Principal belittled a senior student who had made a post on Facebook, saying the “behaviour of this student in insulting the parenting of our community comes from a place of inexperience and ignorance”.

“Firstly, I would like to apologise and acknowledge that I got it wrong in sending out an email to the school community regarding appropriate communication,” the newsletter reads.

“Whilst I stand by my conviction that as a society and a school we need to communicate in more respectful ways where the opinions of all can be drawn on to build a better school and future, I acknowledge that there were two sentences in the email that could have been better worded and have caused offence to the original anonymous poster and some members of our community.”

“I apologise to those who took offence at my words.”

Ms Harvey-Bice did not apologise for sending the email at all, only for two lines, and only to those who were offended by her words. She did not apologise for the video shown to senior students on the same topic which included similar language, which also caused offence triggering a petition for change at the school. She also made no mention of the issue of locked bathrooms which was raised in multiple posts, including the one that her offensive email was referring to.

The latest communication regarding appropriate communication comes among repeated allegations that the school cares more about image than it does about students. In particular, students have told us they care more about stopping the videoing of fights on school grounds than stopping the fights themselves.

“The school seems to react more when the “image” is ruined,” one student said.

“They’re always telling us not to post things on Facebook, and I’m like, if there weren’t bad things happening then people wouldn’t be posting on Facebook,” a parent said.

Another parent said that during a recent brawl that involved over a dozen children on the basketball court, allegedly witnessed by a Ben Venue class visiting the school, the school official was fixated on stopping the filming, not stopping the fight or escorting the primary school children away from the violence.

“For a full two minutes she was trying to get the phone, screaming for the kid to stop videoing,” he said.

A short video of a different fight in the playground near C Block, uploaded to social media in February of this year, confirms similar behaviour, showing two school officials yelling at students to “not stand there and film” and “get that phone away”. We have blurred the vision to protect those involved or captured in the background.

The issue of social media incentivising videoing such activity, which in turn is incentivising the violent behaviour, is a very significant one and is undoubtedly causing significant additional stress for already stretched teachers. However, there are growing concerns from parents and students that perhaps school leadership has their priorities the wrong way around, and should instead be putting the wellbeing of students ahead of concerns about what matters become public, or what people say on Facebook.

This story is part of a series the New England Times is working on about Armidale Secondary College. 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. 

Email newsdesk@netimes.com.au or DM our Facebook page if you’d like to tell your story. The names of all parents and children in personal stories is being changed to protect the children involved.

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