Violence and harassment is rife in Wagga’s public schools, according to a damning report by the NSW Department of Education and Training (DET).
Students are taking and dealing drugs, brandishing knives and abusing teachers and principals at an alarming rate.
The number of incidents reported to police in Term 3 and 4 of 2016 sat at 35 – a three-fold spike from the first half of the year.
Across the Wagga principals network, staff were abused – both physically and verbally – by students and parents on nine separate occasions.
Five pupils were found to be in possession of a weapon and four with prohibited drugs.
Fifteen of the recorded incidents related to physical assault.
In one instance, a female student was pinned down by two boys so that a fellow female student could physically assault her.
The disturbing attack was filmed on a mobile phone and distributed across the school.
Another saw a student’s mother attend a Wagga school and abuse the principal, using offensive and foul language.
She then threatened to kill him.
Former school principal and Australian Principals Association president Dennis Yarrington described violence against staff as an “emerging issue” in classrooms.
“Staff don’t go to school wanting to have confrontation, harassment and threats,” he said.
“If we keep going this way, we'll have less people wanting to get involved in the system.
“The quality of education will be impacted if we don't reduce instances of this horrible behaviour.”
Wagga recorded the same number of incidents as Wollongong – a city with a population of roughly 280,000.
Superintendent commander Bob Noble condemned the violence and said there was always another way to resolve conflict.
“Students and parents need to understand that violence in any context will not be tolerated,” he said.
“Persons who commit acts of violence on others in and around schools can be assured that police will not simply write these incidents off as ‘a school matter’ and take no action.
“Police, school counsellors, teachers and staff are willing to work with them to ensure issues are addressed without things getting out of hand and resorting to violence.”
In response, DET said the state’s schools are “some of the safest places in the community.”
“Any student involved in violence at school is subject to the department’s discipline policy and their parents or carer will be notified,” a spokesperson said.