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Principals call for surveillance of parents i -

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TIM PALMER: A group representing school principals says schools need to arm themselves with surveillance cameras to protect against bullying by parents.

The Australian Principals Federation says CCTV cameras should be installed in the foyer of every state school to give principals some protection against physical attacks and threats. The federation admits it's a desperate measure, but says more needs to be done to protect school staff against angry parents, as Simon Lauder reports.

SIMON LAUDER: The president of the Australian Principals Federation, Chris Cotching, says school principals are increasingly being targeted by angry parents. Mr Cotching says one or two such incidents are reported to him every day.

CHRIS COTCHING: Well the worst example is where someone's actually been physically punched in the face, you know, where they've had stitches. You won't hear this sort of stuff publicised - cases where principals are followed home.

I mean look, principals are a pretty resilient lot I might add, but there's a limit to what they should be expected to tolerate. It is a growing concern. It's become more commonplace in recent times as well.

SIMON LAUDER: A recent survey of thousands of school principals by Monash University found school principals are five times more likely to face threats of violence than the general population and seven times more likely to face physical violence.

Mr Cotching says as the employer, state education departments should be responsible for making schools a safe place to work. He says they should install surveillance cameras in the foyer of every school.

CHRIS COTCHING: People will think twice if they know that they're being under surveillance. When a principal sometimes defends themselves or tries to manage the situation when they've got a violent person in their foyer, who tries to get them out of the foyer area, move them on, before what would often happen is that the person who is the aggressor will then make a formal complaint that the principal had man-handled them or behaved inappropriately or done something.

And there's nothing to say or nothing to allow the principal to be defended. So the poor old principal is under the, then the subject of a complaint process about their misconduct because they've allegedly, you know, man-handled somebody out of a foyer area, which we know is nonsense but has to be investigated.

SIMON LAUDER: And under your proposal, where would the footage go? Would it be monitored in real time and who would keep it, who would have access to it?

CHRIS COTCHING: Well that would be something that would have to be discussed obviously through the department. I mean the department is the employer. It's not our responsibility to make those decisions.

SIMON LAUDER: Aren't there better ways and alternatives of schools being supported against bullies and parents who threaten principals? Is this a desperate measure?

CHRIS COTCHING: It's a desperate measure because it needs, there’s a range of things - we all start off of course with well intentions and we have policy documents and that's fine. But we can't work on the supposition that everyone's going to be well behaved all the time and that there's no need for us to worry about those aberrant, as I said, 5 to 8 per cent of people if it's that many, whose behaviour is intolerable.

TIM PALMER: The president of the Australian Principals Federation, Chris Cotching, ending that report from Simon Lauder.