INDEPENDENT SUPPORT: Coffs Harbour resident Paul Johnson, with two ex-teachers, started the Bullied Teachers Support Network.
INDEPENDENT SUPPORT: Coffs Harbour resident Paul Johnson, with two ex-teachers, started the Bullied Teachers Support Network.

School bullies are not just kids, group claims

COFFS resident Paul Johnson claims teachers are being bullied by those in higher positions to the point where they're even contemplating suicide, an insidious issue he says is being ignored.

While Mr Johnson is not a traumatised ex-teacher himself, he does care for one. He also speaks on behalf of 130 teachers who claim they have been bullied by principals across the state.

Along with two ex-teachers, Mr Johnson started the Bullied Teachers Support Network in early 2018.

Mr Johnson, a former manager with the navy, met a bullied ex-teacher in 2012. She suffered a brain injury from a fall at work in 2010 and in 2011 she was dismissed for "disciplinary reasons", of which Mr Johnson claimed they had still not been informed.

By the time Mr Johnson met her she couldn't leave the house, had spent all her superannuation on her mortgage and was living alone. Since she met Mr Johnson she's been seeking psychological help but under Medicare receives only 12 psychologist visits a year.

"The department doesn't care," he said.

"Because she's an ex-teacher now. She was dismissed and she didn't have the funds to take them to court."

Mr Johnson said one of the main concerns of the group was to highlight the need for an independent body to regulate workplace bullying complaints, as they believed the current mechanism of internal investigation by the Department of Education was "frequently abused".

According to the 2018 People Matters Employee Survey, nearly a quarter of high school teachers in NSW public schools said they had been bullied in the past year and more than 40 per cent said they had witnessed bullying.

"People don't realise the effects of workplace bullying," he said.

"We have teachers at home whose family and friends are on 24/7 suicide watch.

"One of our members have a book coming out and it's about one teacher's search for sanity and justice after being bullied in a Western Sydney school. She lost her house, she attempted suicide, then she received a big payout from the department.

"Even in Coffs Harbour, there's a teacher that resigned from a local school six years ago and she still can't talk about what happened."

The group's submission to the NSW Ombudsman details several of the members' stories, with claims of years of delays on complaint investigations, to claims principals unfairly placed them on the Teacher Improvement Program, which can result in teachers being ousted from their positions.

In their submission, the group is calling for the "destructive" internal investigation process to be replaced with a transparent, independent process.

For help, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.