Christopher Salter, Advertiser (Adelaide, Australia), Mar. 24
Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students at a West Coast school are being segregated in separate detention rooms in a scheme that has been labelled “apartheid”.
The separation of students at Ceduna Area School has angered Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal parents, who say it has contributed to an increase in violent incidents at the school.
Parents last night voiced their concerns at a public meeting with education department officials.
The detention rooms are in stark contrast to one another. The room for exclusive use by problem Aboriginal students includes a television, couch, table tennis table, computers, airconditioning, telephone, fridge, microwave, stereo and DVD player — while the room for problem non-Aboriginal students features two desks and three chairs.
Opposition education spokeswoman Vickie Chapman yesterday said the school was creating “apartheid”.
“To me, that’s an obscene jump back into the past and should be avoided,” she said.
“It is an Education Department-imposed apartheid. I do rebel against that. This should not be a reward room. The two rooms should have the same facilities.”
One Aboriginal parent, who did not want to be identified, said the “naughty Nunga” room was causing racial issues in the community.
“They are separating kids and that is wrong,” the man, who has two primary school students at the school, said.
“We are trying to stop that racism.”
Many non-Aboriginal parents say there are “two sets of rules” for children within the R-12 school.
About a quarter of the 400 students at the school are indigenous. The parents claim that teachers were too lenient on troublesome Aboriginal children, who were endangering other students with violent behaviour.
Several incidents have already been investigated this year, including:
A NUMBER of students suspended after a rape threat was made to a female student.
A STUDENT threatening another with a knife.
A BOY suspended after throwing rocks at students and a teacher in a junior primary playground.
MUTILATION of three flocks of birds by primary school students.
Ceduna Area School principal Francesca Kinnane did not return The Advertiser’s calls yesterday.
However, in this week’s school newsletter, Ms Kinnane admitted children were treated differently.
“There is no tolerance of violence or misbehaviour at the school,” she said.
“There are always consequences but students are not necessarily treated identically. Their age, disabilities, and prior records are among the criteria which determine what action is taken.
“It is worth noting that immediate intervention is not always the most productive action.”
A local advocate for parents of non-Aboriginal children said many parents feared their children would become victims of violence.
“My three children are constantly reporting instances of favouritism towards indigenous children as well as what can only be described as serious, threatening attitudes and behaviour exhibited by some of the indigenous children towards other non-indigenous children,” the advocate, who did not wish to be named, said.
“Actions speak louder than words, and the actions that a small number of the indigenous children are undertaking, and escaping completely unpunished for, speak volumes.”
Education Minister Dr Jane Lomax-Smith yesterday accused Ms Chapman of “cheap political point-scoring”.
“I am appalled that the shadow education minister is trying to politicise what has been a long-running community issue that has spilled over into the schoolyard,” Dr Lomax-Smith said. “The issues in Ceduna have been around for many, many months and Ms Chapman is a ‘Johnny Come Lately’, doing nothing to help the school in its efforts to address the issues.
“Violence is completely unacceptable in our public schools and the Ceduna Area School has always taken immediate action to address incidents in their school and has involved police where necessary.
“I have been kept fully up-to-date over many months and the school community at Ceduna and the district director are aware they have my complete support.”