Mum's anguish: Jodie Swain and her son James, who Jodie says was being bullied at the Ballina Public School.
Mum's anguish: Jodie Swain and her son James, who Jodie says was being bullied at the Ballina Public School. Doug Eaton

Bullies force boy out of school

A MUM whose young son was bullied so badly she was forced to take him out of school has accused the Education Department of trying to cover up the situation.

Jodie Swain, owner of Ballina's Riverwalk Cafe, said she was forced to pull her son out of Ballina Public School after staff failed to deal with bullying problems.

She said she was now trying to get him into school at Alstonville and that she and her husband were preparing to move to be closer to the new school.

Ms Swain said James developed behavioural issues at the school because of the bullying, which included verbal abuse and incidents such as the theft of his scooter.

The school tried to deal with the problem by moving him into different classes – first a grade four class and then a grade six class – but had failed to stop the bullying, so the problems continued.

“They want us to take out an AVO (apprehended violence order) on a 10-year-old child, and I don't want to go down that path,” she said.

The Education Department said the school had only one report of James being bullied and that report was made this week by Ms Swain.

A department spokesman said the decision to move James into different classes was not related to bullying.

He said it was done ‘following consultation with his mother, to support him in his behaviour'.

“The welfare of students is Ballina Public School's highest priority,” he said.

Ms Swain said the school had known for weeks about the bullying and that she and the school had been in frequent contact over behavioural issues that flowed from the harassment.

Ms Swain said she had been told by staff at the school, and by other parents, that there had been problems at the school for some time and accused the department of trying to cover up the issue.

“Them saying he's only been bullied in the last week is rubbish,” Ms Swain said. “They have known for weeks it's a bullying issue.”

Ms Swain said bullying needed to be dealt with in a comprehensive manner – starting with getting the bullies away from their victims.

Failing to do that could have lasting implications for victims, she said.

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