A Labor MP has called on the Minister for Education to take action to ensure support services, including counselling, are in place for students and parents at Portland Bay School.
Member for Western Victoria Gayle Tierney highlighted the issue in Parliament this week and said the special school was often raised, with people giving examples of how it was critical for special needs people to be able to interact in their local community.
“The minister is aware of a number of recent issues at the school. Some students are currently not attending the school, there have been complaints from parents, complaints about bullying from current employees, disquiet from former employees and reports in the local media,” she said.
“In addition, I understand the police have been called to the school on more than one occasion. I also understand that a review has been conducted and a new examination is under way.
“We all know that examinations, reviews and legal proceedings take some time, and I accept that proper process takes time. But I am worried that some of the children are not coping.
“Some cannot or will not go to school, and there are many children who seem to have regressed.”
Ms Tierney said the situation was dire and intervention was required to ensure families received urgent help.
“We all know regression and increased disengagement experienced by students with additional needs is multi-layered and difficult to address, and it takes longer for those students to get back onto a more even keel,” she said.
“Parents are missing work to look after their children, and it is abundantly clear that many parents are stressed, at the end of their tether and understandably very emotional.”
About two weeks ago, parents and students were locked inside the room at the school during a beginning of the year meet-and-greet day and there were conflicting accounts over whether the incident was an accident or protocol.
Several family members told The Standard they felt angry and confused as to why class doors were locked when they arrived.
Portland Bay School principal Paul Nugent said only one door was meant to be locked because of several autistic students who could attempt to leave.
“Some students are flight risks and for their own safety some teachers may, on occasion, choose to lock the external doors,” Mr Nugent said.
“No students are ever locked inside a classroom.”