It’s Zero Tolerance on Racism in Schools

Andrew Clennell, Sydney Morning Herald, March 24, 2006

Every New South Wales public school will have to appoint a teacher to be an anti-racism officer to “teach tolerance within normal school lessons”, the Premier, Morris Iemma, will announce today.

But the Teachers Federation yesterday criticised Mr Iemma, saying the idea was not new.

The Department of Education’s website shows anti-racism contact officers were supposed to have been in NSW schools since at least 2003. The idea was first announced in Parliament by the Coalition government in 1993.

Mr Iemma’s office said last night that the program had not been implemented properly.

“Up until now it has not been as specific as every single school will have one,” said Mr Iemma’s spokesman, Ben Wilson.

A speech Mr Iemma will deliver today says: “Some years ago we began the process of ensuring that our students had access to dedicated staff members trained to respond to issues of racism. It is true we’ve not been as successful as we should have been in ensuring these resources are available in all our schools.”

The Teachers Federation president, Maree O’Halloran, said: “There’s quite a strong anti-racism policy already in the department. It may well be right that it wasn’t fully implemented [having the officers in every single school] but the anti-racism policy is not new.”

Mr Iemma said all of the 2240 public schools in NSW would have a designated staff member trained to handle racism issues, with the teacher to be nominated by the principal.

“Schools will for the first time include anti-racism strategies in their three-year school plans and will detail their effectiveness in the annual school reports,” he said.

In the past month Mr Iemma has announced a taser gun trial for the riot squad, a water cannon for the same squad and an increase in police and riot squad numbers.

“Respect for teachers as authority figures is fundamental in our schools,” Mr Iemma said.

“We want to send a clear message that there is no place for racial intolerance in our classrooms and playground.

“This will mean that any student anywhere in the state, can have someone to turn to if they feel victimised.”

In a speech Mr Iemma is set to deliver announcing the plan today, he says society is undermined every time people swore at a teacher, dropped litter on the ground, failed to vote, evaded taxes or “every time we ignore an old lady left standing on a crowded bus”.

Mr Iemma said he was concerned about people who developed “disdain and disrespect for authority from an early age”. He mentioned riots at Redfern, Macquarie Fields, Dubbo and Cronulla and added: “In light of those trends, we make no apologies for building new jails, passing tougher laws, hiring 750 new police and, yes, acquiring a water cannon for the worst disturbances”.

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