Wild brawl videos push school to ban phones

 

A school rocked by videos of disturbing schoolyard brawling is cracking down on mobile phone use during school hours.

Gisborne Secondary College is trialling a "phone-free GSC" in term 2 after students shared alarming footage of students fighting.

Gisborne principal Jon Morley told families, based on observations of other schools, the ban would spell the end of illicit videos and social media distractions.

A number of videos of schoolyard fights at the school emerged earlier this year.

Some of the disturbing footage showed two students wrestling on the floor, with one throwing punches towards another student's head.

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Another video showed young boys surrounding two students facing off against one another.

The boys look at the camera before launching into a fist fight, swinging multiple punches and ending the scuffle on the ground.

There also were claims that some students were trying to sell videos to websites.

The Herald Sun obtained a series of violent videos from the Gisborne schoolyard. Picture: Supplied
The Herald Sun obtained a series of violent videos from the Gisborne schoolyard. Picture: Supplied

The Gisborne move comes as government and private schools are embracing phone free policies, worried about the distractions and misuse.

Trinity Grammar, which banned phones during school hours from the start of the year, has declared it a huge success after one term.

Gisborne's Mr Morley told families he had visited several secondary colleges which had adopted the policy of leaving phones in lockers until 3.15pm.

"The classrooms and yard seemed more settled," he told families at the school, 54km north west of Melbourne.

"No issues with illicit filming or the distraction of email, social media or YouTube."

Through newsletters, Mr Morley addressed the altercations at the Gisborne school which undermined the school's values and damaged the school's image.

"I would like to reiterate there is no place for bullying or aggressive and threatening behaviour in our school, and in every instance, our student managers were quick and decisive in their responses. Such behaviour certainly does not reflect our values.

"Due to the seriousness of these incidents, the school has implemented a number of initiatives to reduce and respond to violence and bullying, and to increase positive experiences at lunchtime, bringing senior and junior students together."

 

A group watches on as two students brawl. Picture: Supplied
A group watches on as two students brawl. Picture: Supplied

 

The measures included putting extra staff on yard duty, addressing respectful behaviour, increasing lunch time activities to keep students occupied, and creating a nurturing buddy relationships between senior and junior students.

The school also decided to open up the Year 7 learning centre for lunch and recess for quiet activities.

Year 12s were also running dodge ball at lunchtime for junior students.

Mr Morley said the episode was not a true reflection of what many regarded as "a great school and a school that strives to instil positive, caring behaviours in students".

Trinity Grammar head Mr Phil De Young said the implementation of the phone ban at the Kew private boys' school was a big success.

"I think undoubtedly it has reduced distractions from the main purpose of school which is teaching and learning," he said.

 

Gisborne has followed the lead of other schools in cracking down on phones. Picture: Supplied
Gisborne has followed the lead of other schools in cracking down on phones. Picture: Supplied

 

He said the absence of phones buzzing in pockets and tempting students to check them was a huge win.

Mr De Young said boys were engaging with each other rather than playing Fortnite and checking social media.

"The vast majority are sitting around, walking around and playing games and talking to each other which massively benefits their emotional and social wellbeing," he said.

He said parents had supported the crackdown 100 per cent.

The jury was out as to whether there had been a knock on effect at home with students reducing overall phone use.

He said parents felt the school ban was empowering them to also try to reduce use at home.

While some opponents cite family emergencies as a reason to keep phones, Mr De Young said there had been no issues.

Mr De Young, who said he was inspired by the McKinnon Secondary College ban, said each week he heard of more schools "hopping on the train" to ban phone use.

The Department of Education and Training said government schools could develop their own policies.

"Most schools have policies in place to stop or limit mobile phone use in classrooms," a spokeperson said.

"Schools that do allow the use of mobile phones must advise students and parents of their expectations, including use during school excursions, camps and extra-curricular activities."

claire.heaney@news.com.au

The disturbing videos shocked the school community. Picture: Supplied
The disturbing videos shocked the school community. Picture: Supplied