Qld youth crime: Stats show school disciplinary action may add to youth crime crisis

There seems to be confusion here about the causal chain -- a claim that expulsions CAUSE bad behaviour.  That remains to be established.  What we DO know is that bad behaviour causes expulsions.  Correlation is not causation

There is however no doubt that expulsions are a bad disciplinary option.  Classroom behaviour was much better when corporal punishment was allowed

The state’s foremost expert on families and children has warned there is a direct correlation between suspended and expelled students and those swept up in Queensland’s youth crime epidemic.

Queensland Family and Child Commission (QFCC) principal commissioner Luke Twyford said evidence showed more than half of all kids in the youth justice system were disengaged from education, and a high-rate suspensions and exclusions could be adding to the problem.

It comes after The Courier-Mail revealed vulnerable kids – including First Nations children, kids with a disability and those in care – were eight times more likely to be suspended or excluded from school than their peers.

“A young person’s disengagement from education is a known risk factor and indicator of their future contact with the youth justice system,” Mr Twyford said.

“Using suspension and expulsions does not work for children whose home environment is causing their behaviour.

“Instead we need greater investment in specialised education outside of the mainstream system, such as Flexischools, and greater focus on trauma-informed responses in schools.”

Mr Twyford said he was aware the education department was taking action on the “highly-concerning statistics”, and he had received briefings on the progress.

“Whilst there are positive improvements in the use of SDAs for young children including those in Prep, I remain concerned that more needs to be done for high-school teenagers, particularly those in vulnerable cohorts,” he said.

“Keeping children engaged in education or employment is the best way to give them hope for the future and keep them out of crime.”

The QFCC says it has raised its concerns through meetings with state government ministers, and is continuing to monitor improvements in the use of school disciplinary absences.

Speaking about an over-representation of some student disciplinary absences, Education Minister Grace Grace said the rates were “very concerning”.

She said she had asked the department to review the issue last year, and preliminary data had indicated a decline in overall absences.

“However there is still clearly more to do, which is why addressing this issue is a key focus of our new equity and excellence strategy,” Ms Grace said last week.

“Some of the measures include closely monitoring student absences and acting when patterns indicate additional support is needed, establishing a dedicated position in each region, and providing professional development programs to support staff to better respond to complex behavioural issues.”

Bond University criminologist Prof Terry Goldsworthy said there was sufficient evidence that showed disciplines at school could lead to anti-social behaviour out of the classroom.

“What are they doing? What are they getting up to? Most parents are at work, all that can be problematic,” Prof Goldsworthy said.

Prof Goldsworthy said community welfare should always come first. “It’s a difficult position for schools,” he said. “But on the other hand community welfare must come first over individual autonomy.”

Griffith University criminologist Professor Ross Homel said while suspension and exclusions relieved pressure on schools, they tended to backfire.

Prof Homel said he sympathised with schools who were forced to suspend violent children to protect their classmates but said it wasn’t always the best answer.

“We know that it leads to the potential for youth crime, for mental health problems and homelessness,” Prof Homel said of suspensions. “I don’t blame schools and it’s not just in Queensland where it’s an epidemic.”

A Department of Education spokeswoman said principals considered the care arrangements of students prior to deciding whether to suspend them.



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