EXPLAINED: Why suspensions rising in Bundy schools
BUNDABERG'S rate of school suspensions has risen year on year from 2013 to 2017, figures from the Queensland Department of Education reveal.
It's a concerning trend that Queensland University of Technology Professor Linda Graham says is a result of legislation changes in 2014 - which gave principals greater discretion to suspend students and extend the length of short suspensions from 1-5 days to 1-10 days.
Professor Graham in her report published yesterday in the International Journal of Inclusive Education, says the legislation fell short of its expected aims to reduce suspensions and had hindered students' education.
The suspension rate in Bundy's state schools had risen by 8.6 per cent from 2013 to 2014.
Suspensions then climbed steadily from 2014 to 2017.
In 2014, 1383 students across Bundaberg's state schools were suspended.
2015 saw suspensions jump to 1459, and in 2016 total suspensions rose again to 1569. Suspensions for 2016 grew again to 1569, and in 2017 it hit 1621.
Bundaberg's two public high schools, Bundaberg and Bundaberg North recorded the highest number of suspensions across the region.Bundaberg State High handed out 313 short suspensions (1-10 days) in 2014, rising to 501 in 2017.
In 2014 Bundaberg North State High recorded 234 short suspensions, which climbed to 285 in 2016, but that figure dropped to 217 last year.
In the report, Professor Graham argued suspensions increased students' exclusion to vital learning in class, created disengagement and increased antisocial behaviour.
She said across the state, students who found themselves in hot water reported their problems began in Year 7, when transitioning from primary to high school.
"There is a crack down on behaviour when kids first get in there, like a warning almost,” Prof Graham said.
"These behaviours are from a particular type of kids, maybe with ADHD or a language disorder, who find it difficult to organise themselves in secondary school environments and are having difficulties with inconsistencies between teachers. "They go into Year 7 and are hit with a high school academic curriculum and can't cope. They get caught up in a more disciplinary atmosphere and then bang, they're getting suspended time and time again.
"We are kicking these kids out of school younger and using a failed strategy to address these problems.”
A Department of Education spokesperson said principals were given discretionary powers to suspend students with unacceptable behaviour, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of other staff and students.
The spokesperson said of more than 540,000 state school students, the total number of school disciplinary absences remained relatively stable at 7.1 per cent.