Monday morning was a busy and exciting time for everyone in Youth Parliament.
The East Gippsland Youth Ambassadors were particularly keen for the day to begin; they had a very important bill to debate, one that was close to their hearts.
Mr Brodee Turner introduced the Bill, titled ‘Healthy Alternatives to Current School Punishments’, with great passion. He was adamant that the situation “where a student feels unwanted or an outcast to society because of suspension and expulsion” can easily be avoided with the new legislation and to give everyone a “fair go” no matter who they are.
However, the opposition made strong statements that the Bill itself failed to mention the effects of those alternative punishments on the victims of the bullies and the community. They argued that the Bill is “prioritising the education of the bullies over the victims”.
Mr Robert Milich addressed his concerns about how the Bill would affect the community, as the Bill, “hasn’t outlined any way of monitoring the success of it”.
Milich also made clear remarks to the government that the removal of a student from the school environment serves to “protect any victims of the student being suspended and to protect the learning and safety of the other students.” He pointed out that the purpose and merits of school punishments, such as suspension, have been ignored by the Bill.
The members of the government were not convinced that the Bill ignores victims of bullying. They argued that the opposition did not understand the purpose of the Bill, which is to provide a more holistic approach to education.
The Bill aims to create an engaging school environment for those that would otherwise be suspended or expelled.
Ms Cherisa Oosthuizen strongly argued against the opposition.
“Without bullies, there won’t be victims, that is why our Bill focuses on the troubled students.”
The Bill puts forward a teacher training initiative that is to be carried in accordance to the ‘Calmer Classrooms’ and ‘Gateway Project’ initiatives, research-based strategies aiming to minimise exclusion and promote healthy disciplinary alternatives.
However, Mr Milich pointed out that “the huge amount of training to be carried out is inefficient” for the schools and that a more gradual introduction to the legislation would be a far better option.
The parliamentarians debated the bill heavily, but it did not pass the Youth Parliament. The vote was close, with 27 votes for and 30 votes against the Bill.
The Youth Ambassadors all agree that alternative disciplinary measures are needed to address the issue of student disengagement amongst those who are suspended or expelled. Although their bill didn’t pass, the team hopes that the Victorian Parliament can still find a solution to this issue.