A private school in Queensland has taken a stand against bullying with a controversial policy that gives the principal the right to search students’ mobile phones.
“The principal has the right to peruse and copy the content of any phone brought onto College grounds, in order to ensure the safety and welfare of all students,” Kimberley College’s website states.
Principal Paul Thomson told Mamamia he didn’t think the measures were an invasion of privacy, despite the move being at odds with state school policy.
“They come to me. I never walk up to a kid and say – ‘all right get your phone out of the classroom’ -and have a look at it. I’ve got better things to do with my time,” he said.
“But sometimes I have to. Kids might come to me and say – ‘a kid is looking at pornography on the way home on the bus’ – so I say to that kid – ‘go and get your phone I want to have a look at it’. That’s my duty of care.”
This school head says mobile phones are “poisonous weapons in kids’ hands”.
“The two concerns I have are pornography and bullying. We don’t have many problems with pornography, bullying is the big issue,” said Mr Thomson.
Kimberley College currently has around 300 students on its waiting list, and Mr Thomson says many parents “lining up” to enrol their children after bullying incidents at other schools.
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“We have literally a constant stream of kids coming to the school saying will you please enrol my child- my child is being bullied.”
He says the policy has helped the school build a good reputation for anti-bullying and created an “atmosphere of calm and peace” with students who are “respectful, decent, kind, delightful kids”.
“The worst kind of bullying, the one they can’t cope with is cyber bullying, hence the control of mobile phones here,” said Mr Thompson.
“It’s almost a cult I think – mobile phones – it’s an obsession. As Susan Greenfield says…screen culture is turning kids brains to mush.”
No technology is permitted in the primary school grades, which Mr Thomson says is “totally in line with the most popular school in Silicon Valley”.
The whole student body from preschool to year 12 follow a mobile phone ban during school hours, and Mr Thomson says the mobile phone policy has been well received.
“This has had tremendous support from people all around Australia. I think people are really worried about – and they should be too – the consequences of mobile phones.”
Queensland state school policy clearly states that staff do not have the authority to open or examine students’ property without consent from the student or parent.
Their guidelines state: “A principal or staff member who removes a mobile phone from a student is not authorised to unlock the phone or to read, copy or delete messages stored on the phone.”
However, Mr Thomson says the private school’s policy is a “duty of care”.
“One person said that me looking at a child’s mobile phone was like walking into their bedroom and I think – for God’s sake, when you press send you surrender all your privacy anyway,” he said.
“I would image – being a father of five and a grandfather of 18 – I’ve enough experience around kids to have developed a code of ethics. If I see something that is very private and inappropriate, I’m not going to broadcast it or show it to anyone else,” he added.
“I don’t think I’ve come across anything like that where I feel as though I am invading somebody’s privacy.
“If they call privacy the right to produce or to record pornography and to distribute it, I don’t think that’s privacy at all – that’s just plain horrible.”