Frequent violence at Melbourne school has parents, teachers in fear

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Parents, teachers and students are worried about frequent youth violence at a school in Melbourne’s western suburbs after staff were filmed being attacked in a mass brawl on Tuesday.

The partner of a staff member at Tarneit Senior College, who asked not to be identified to protect them, said her close family members were fearful of going to school.

Students arrive at Tarneit Senior College after footage emerged yesterday of a fight involving teachers and pupils.Credit: Joe Armao

She said the school had numerous lockdowns, reports of knives and Tasers and knew of one teacher who had previously been threatened with a knife.

“He cries every night about the abuse he faces and the lack of support from the Department [of Education],” she said.

Police have charged a 19-year-old woman with affray after video footage showed school staff being hit trying to stop a group of people in hoodies kicking and stomping on someone on the ground.

Four other teenagers, all from Tarneit, are expected to be charged on summons with affray and unlawful assault.

Vision has emerged of a separate unrelated attack on the same day near Tarneit train station, as students walked home.

Several young people can be seen punching, kicking and stomping on a man, leaving him cowering on the ground with his hands over his head. The attackers appear to stomp on his head a number of times.

Tarneit Senior College principal Shane Cole-Hayhow sent a message to students and parents on Wednesday notifying them about both the school attack and the incident at the train station.

“A group of students were involved in an altercation in the school foyer at the end of the school day whilst there was a separate, unrelated incident that occurred while some students were travelling home,” Cole-Hayhow wrote.

Police said officers arrived at the train station about 4.40pm after reports of an assault, however, the group of offenders had left the area.

“No victim has presented to police and at this stage it appears the matter has not been reported,” police said in a statement.

A year 12 student at the school said the fight was “just the average Tuesday”, and said there were one or two fights weekly, with one major fight every month. But he said the latest clash had been the most serious.

The partner of a staff member at the school said the teachers at the school needed more support to deal with this behaviour.

“The public deserves to know what their kids are witnessing daily and deserve to demand better. Kids are scared to go to school, parents are terrified to send their kids to the school and I fear for my partner’s safety and my child’s safety,” she said.

A police spokeswoman said Wyndham police officers were aware of tensions among a small group of teenage girls in the area.

“Five people have been arrested following an alleged assault at a school in Tarneit, and we are continuing to investigate a small number of other alleged targeted assaults involving this group. Further arrests are expected,” she said.

The spokeswoman said there had been no reports of any weapons, including knives or Tasers at any of these incidents.

She said there wouldn’t be an ongoing police presence at schools in Wyndham. However, officers were monitoring intelligence to proactively intervene and prevent disputes before they occur.

“The proactive policing unit is engaged with several local schools in the Wyndham area that are involved to provide safety advice and support,” she said.

“Local youth workers are also engaged as part of the Embedded Youth Outreach Project, by liaising with the young people involved to address the underlying causes of these issues, with the aim to prevent further incidents.”

Ezra Aumua, whose daughter attends Tarneit Senior College, said he thought it was “really concerning … what is happening in schools today”.

“You worry about your kids, their friends,” Aumua said.

“The principal got thrown around a little bit. I saw another teacher go flying across the room. It’s just crazy.”

Tarneit Senior College parent Ezra Aumua.Credit: Joe Armao

Manuia Suafoa, whose daughter is a school leader in year 12, said she was dismayed to hear about the fight.

“It’s a big worry for me,” Suafoa said, “because I don’t know what happens after this incident.

“I’m not happy about it. What I’ve taught to my kids is the way they respect me at home, whoever teaches them at school, that is a representation of myself there. So, they have to respect them as well.”

Premier Daniel Andrews said on Thursday he was limited in commenting on the incident because it was a police matter, but told reporters it was “a terrible incident”.

Tarneit Senior College parent Manuia Suafoa.Credit: Nine News

“Every school community across our state schools – and indeed private schools, Catholic and independent schools – take the safety of students and staff very seriously,” he said.

“It’s just not on. It’s not acceptable. It’s wrong. And to those caught up in that – the victims of that – we send our best wishes. I’d be very confident that that school, [like] all schools, would take that matter very, very seriously.”

School crossing supervisor Christine Pelham said she had seen students fighting on Fridays after school in the past.

“Every Friday night there are pretend fights – play fights,” Pelham said. “But very rarely do they go into full-on fights. It’s not a constant event. When it happens, it is out of the blue.”

Crossing supervisor Christine Pelham assists students on Thursday morning.Credit: Joe Armao

Another parent, Tony, said he felt other parents needed to raise their children better.

“That is not right,” Tony said about school staff being assaulted.

“Sometimes I’m worried, but I tell my kids, whatever happens, don’t worry.”

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