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An Australian teacher was stabbed by a parent this week. His case is just the beginning.

On Tuesday morning, teacher Zane Vockler was at school bright and early, presumably setting up for the second day of term two.

The “gentle and caring” teacher at a Byron Bay primary school, known affectionately by his school community as ‘Mr V’, was speaking to the mother of one of the students.

The content of their conversation is unknown. But the woman, 31, is accused of attacking 28-year-old Vockler, stabbing him in the face and arm with a pair of scissors.

The Quicky deep dive on the crisis in our schools. Post continues after audio…

The school was placed in lockdown and the mother was arrested at her home.

It’s an extreme example of something a study by La Trobe University has shown is rising at an alarming rate: The new school bullies are not children. They are parents, and their primary targets are teachers.

Mamamia‘s daily news podcast The Quicky, spoke to The Age journalist Melissa Fyfe, who along with colleague Henrietta Cook, wrote a feature article about this disturbing trend.

Their article focuses on a Queensland case of a principal who sued eight parents for making defamatory comments against her on an online petition.

“This was a case that started off with an online petition. A principal in Queensland had been suspended and no one in the community knew why she had been suspended,” Fyfe explained.

“The Parents and Citizens Committee, which was supportive of this principal, put up a Change.org petition saying ‘We want a good process, can we have her reinstated, can someone tell us what’s going on’ and this was a petition to the Queensland Education Minister.

“And then what happened was several parents got onto the petition and they made some derogatory comments about the principal. She then sued eight parents for defamation. Since she filed that in the court, there’s been three that she’s actually settled with and one of the parents has actually been declared bankrupt.”

recent study from La Trobe University in Melbourne found 80 per cent of teachers had experienced some form of student or parent-led bullying in the last 12 months. In 2018 alone, 45 per cent of school principals were threatened with violence by parents, an Australian Catholic University report showed.

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An increasing number of teachers were suffering from mental health problems, including anxiety and depression, and there had also been a rise in teachers and principals seeking counselling.

Earlier this year, a Queensland school took a hard stance against the bullying of its teachers and staff after online abuse reached “unacceptable” levels following changes to its uniform policy.

In a memo sent home from The Gap State High School, by Principal Anne McLauchlan, parents were warned “derogatory, insulting and unsolicited social media posts about staff”, as well as physical, hostile incidents on school grounds would be reported to the Department of Education.

This is, clearly, a wide-reaching issue. It’s not confined to one school, one city, one state.

Fyfe told The Quicky she and co-author Cook received a lot of feedback from teachers in response to their piece, who spoke personally about their battles with overbearing and bully parents.

“What we got a lot of feedback on is that is doesn’t have to be a lot of parents who can tip a teacher over, but one teacher said to us ‘It only has to be one parent standing again and again at the door that will tip you over’.

“That can really cause not just anxiety and depression and in some cases post traumatic stress disorder from this bullying and harassment.

“People [also] don’t realise that schools have to respond in writing to complaints. If there’s an incident it takes up hours and hours and hours of reporting time and of course all of that time is taken away from the children.”

More and more, teachers are leaving the profession. They are frankly, done. A child’s education is their first priority, but the long hours, unpaid overtime, decreasing resources and support is wearing them down. And that’s without even accounting for abusive parents.

Back in Byron Bay, the mother who allegedly assaulted Mr V has been charged with unlawful wounding causing grievous bodily harm and entering enclosed land.

On Tuesday, Mr Vockler underwent surgery after suffering a fractured arm, a deep wound behind his left ear, and cuts to his arm and face.

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