EVERY so often Brauer College principal Jane Boyle finds a student waiting outside her office, hoping to talk or tell her something important.
Building trust has helped the secondary school reduce the number of students bullied in the schoolyard, reflected in student surveys that rate how safe students feel at school.
But it’s what happens in the hours before and after school that shapes what teachers deal with.
“Since I’ve been principal I’ve noticed a strong shift to cyber bullying,” Ms Boyle said.
Bullying and harassment through social media follows the victim home at night.
“That’s getting all the agencies involved, sometimes in extreme cases the police if it’s been illegal,” Ms Boyle said.
More often than not it’s during class that things come to a head after days of bullying or online abuse.
This week the state government pumped $4 million into anti-bullying programs under a straightforward campaign title: Bully Stoppers.
There’s a long list of planned resources and grants that seemingly tick all the right boxes, such as smartphone apps, online resources and toolkits.
But the core approach to stop bullying is knowing the students well enough to tell when something is wrong, according to the Brauer College principal.
“It’s built into what we do,” she said.
“We have extensive pastoral care programs … the same staff are also with the students from year 7 until year 12.”
The school also has a “restorative” approach to rebuilding relationships that break down among students or with their teachers, based on a similar model in the justice system. “It’s through the relationships with students that teachers notice a change,” she said. “When something goes wrong we look at a process to rebuild those relationships … it’s not a matter of a quick fix.”
It’s a method that seems to be working.
Brauer College ranked in the top 10 public schools across the state for student safety — a survey students fill out themselves that goes directly on to the department.
But Ms Boyle is realistic. By their nature, bullies strike when they think no one is looking.
“I would be naive to say it’s all good. We don’t, but we try,” she said.