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Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

Former member for New England Tony Windsor is very fond of saying ‘decisions are made by those who turn up’.

Change is made by those who speak up. 

Our series on what is happening at Armidale Secondary College (ASC) was triggered by an inappropriate email and video to the entire school community from ASC Principal Bree Harvey-Bice. That communication, ironically entitled ‘Appropriate communication’, was an emotional response to a lengthy anonymous post on Facebook from one very brave student speaking out about the school and defending teachers who were being blamed by some people. The poster agreed to talk to us in more detail as long as we reported exactly what they said, so the below is close to a word for word transcript, with just some minor edits for clarity. 

Defending Teachers

Sam – not their real name – is in year 12 at ASC, and says they did not like the way their post was twisted and misinterpreted. Sam’s post was in response to two other posts on Facebook that were blaming teachers for the issues at the school. The intent of the post was to defend teachers. 

“I just didn’t feel that it was fair on the teachers, while it was mostly the kids that were actually the ones behaving badly.”

“I’ve seen children just f*ck around, do nothing, really talk back towards teachers who are just trying to do their absolute best at trying to teach kids.”

“I watch children get up, throw things at children, or at teachers, while teachers are trying to get other teachers, like head teachers, to try and calm the child down or to try and stop it.”

“My math’s class is in D block, and there you will find 50 kids walking around, throwing stuff, screaming.”

“And obviously nothing’s worked. Children will be like, f*ck you, f*ck this, f*ck everything.

“Even a teacher that’s just a bystander or just walks past will get blamed because a student isn’t behaving properly.”

“I feel like everyone’s kind of misjudged what my post was about. Like, the principal obviously has taken a skew of what I’ve said, and she’s called me ignorant and said that I don’t know anything about the world.”

“Yeah, I don’t know about parenting techniques. Obviously I’m not a parent. But I’ve had pretty good parenting to know how a child should behave, you know what I’m saying?” 

“It can’t be teachers fault. It is parents’ fault because they are not teaching their child how they should act in school. They’re not teaching their kids that it’s not right to scream in class. It’s not right to muck around.” 

“I kind of laughed at [the email] because I was like, we kind of did give her the opportunity to do something about [the bathroom issue] and the email said you need to come see me. And I was like, well, I did come see you. So, you know, whatever.” 

Can you learn?

We asked Sam what it’s like to learn in that kind of environment with kids screaming and throwing things. 

“It is kind of distracting.” 

“Every classroom, except in I Block, all of the classrooms have glass windows, or sliding glass doors. So you will hear everything, you will see everything, and it’s a bit of a distraction.” 

“It’s a bit embarrassing as well, like you kind of get second hand embarrassment from just watching a child misbehave and being like, ‘Oh, I wouldn’t really want to have that child in my class or as my kid’.”

“So it’s a bit of a distraction because you can hear everything.”

“Especially for some people who are on the spectrum. They don’t get to learn as much as they should because of the background noises and trying to listen to the teachers and trying to do the hardest work that they can.”

“All the time, like every single day you’ll have a distraction. You’ll have someone screaming at, at each other, at teachers, or just making a muck of everything, honestly.”

Fighting 

We asked Sam about the violence at school.

“Earlier last year and earlier this year, we’ve had a few lockdowns and stuff, because people have been fighting on the oval.”

“I was in F block one time, in year 11, and there was a fight on the oval and ambulance had to come, but everybody was locked down.”

“I don’t know why everybody was locked down.”

“I’ve had a friend who actually witnessed a fight. She told me that she watched a year 8 or a year 9 kid go up to a year 7 or 8 kid, and punch them straight in the nose and blood splatter everywhere. Like just being repeatedly hit, and apparently a knife was pulled out, but wasn’t used obviously.”

“Teachers tried to get in and pull it apart, but obviously, like you don’t really want to endanger yourself. But also you want to try and intervene enough so none of the two children were hurt.”

“My brother was telling me about two people fighting in a bathroom. Apparently a year 10 kid had a girlfriend in year 9 or something. And a boy was talking to her because they had to do classwork, a group project. And this year 10 kid’s girlfriend was in the group.”

“And so obviously the boy was targeted because they were talking. Which is complete stupidity, but that’s what the Year 10 kid has obviously been brought up in, or, you know, first thought was of I’m going to beat him up just because.”

“People were actually blocking the doorways, so it was in the bathroom, but there was a whole bunch of people that were blocking the entrance into the bathroom.”

“So his friends couldn’t go in and try and help him or try and get him out. Obviously there was people filming it, there was people standing everywhere, there was people blocking everything, so that nobody could get in.”

Unsafe at school

We asked Sam pretty simply if they feel unsafe at school.

“Um, sometimes. Like, if I have to get somewhere, like if I’m trying to find a bathroom or trying to go to class. Or trying to find a space to study.”

“Having kids during class time walk around screaming and everything, it just kind of makes me a bit scared that if I walk in to something in the bathrooms or if I just walk into one of the blocks and there’s kids like just f*cking about, I might get a bit, um, get hurt or something.”

“Like if I walk into a bathroom with like 50 kids screaming. I feel like I’m gonna get hurt. And they’re all swearing, they’re all like being rude to each other, I don’t know if I am safe.”

“And sometimes teachers, obviously they try their hardest. But I know a lot of teachers are not doing anything. They just report it. They don’t go and do anything, but they will write up the child on [school administration system] Sentral.”

Looking forward

We asked Sam if they were worried about their marks for the HSC and their plans for next year.

“Oh, my marks have been pretty shitty.”

“I’m not stupid, I just feel stupid sometimes, but I’m not sure if it’s me or if it’s the school kind of environment. Sometimes, I think it’s just classwork in general, but classwork just doesn’t give me much interest. I think it needs to be funner.”

“Obviously there are sometimes these distractions of the kids, and then you miss something in class, and you’re like, I can’t keep up.”

“I want to take a gap year next year. And then after the gap year, I want to try and go to uni.” 

“If I don’t get the right marks, I’ll go and work in a travel agency or something, but I’m trying to get the good marks. If it doesn’t work out, then I get to travel, right? Yeah, awesome. I get to be paid to be travelling.”


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.

Some of the content in these stories is distressing.  If you or anyone you know needs help, please contact: