Elite school slams needy parents
LOCATED right in the heart of Sydney's CBD is the elite St Andrew's Cathedral School.
Parents who send their kids to the prestigious K-12 private school fork out as much as $30,000 a year in fees but, according to its principal Dr John Collier, paying that exorbitant sum doesn't give them the licence to treat teachers like servants.
In a recent school newsletter, Dr Collier told parents to "chill!" and said he was "very displeased at the current level of agitation from a minority of parents".
He said he had recently noticed the culture of "gracious engagement" between parents and teachers had been steadily declining and admitted if necessary, he would tell staff to stop answering emails and phone calls.
He also warned parents he could ban them from entering school grounds if they continued to "verbally abuse, physically threaten or shout" at staff members.
Dr Collier, who has worked as a school principal for almost three decades, wrote that he'd noticed a substantial increase in parental "anxiety".
"A couple of years ago, a middle school parent said to me that he knew the 13 staff members who had observed his daughter committing an offence were all lying, as his daughter said she was innocent. It is very hard to make progress with this level of unreality," he wrote.
"Recently, a middle school parent said to me that as her daughter had done poorly in her test, her life was actually over! Actually, it wasn't."
Last year, Dr Collier said things between parents and a staff member became so bad the student was expelled from the school.
"The relationship with the parents had entirely collapsed as they were in effect bullying staff on a daily basis," he wrote.
Dr Collier stressed to parents that "we need to avoid living vicariously through our children".
The principal said some parents believed they were entitled to boss teachers around purely because of the fees they were paying.
"I am aware some parents, because they are paying fees, see the relationship with teachers as a master/servant relationship, such that they are entitled to make extravagant demands," he wrote.
"Even in a mercenary sense, this is hardly true. Two parents would be contributing around 2/1300ths of that part of the teacher's salary which is funded by parents (a small part is funded by the government), and that is hardly a sufficient commercial relationship to prescribe how teachers act!"
Throughout his three decades of running schools, Dr Collier said the parents who were the most "stressed and accusative" often pulled their children out of the school after a few years.
"In such cases, there is clearly not going to be any school which will ever satisfy them or meet their extravagant expectations," he wrote.
The principal ended his newsletter with a stark statement.
"As our children would say to us: 'Chill!'"
Speaking to the ABC, Dr Collier said the parents engaging in abusive behaviour at St Andrew's were a "tiny minority".
"This is mainstreamed and normalised behaviour which I think is actually socially unacceptable," he said.
PARENTS VS PRINCIPALS
Dr Collier's newsletter comes five months after a number of Australian education professionals made the national news for attempting to enforce school rules.
In February, the Queensland government backed Brisbane's The Gap State High School after it marched more than a hundred kids to detention for wearing the wrong shoes.
The Brisbane high school was at the centre of national debate in February after one mother hit out at the public school's uniform policy which bans students from wearing a number of shoes, including ones with heels higher than 20mm.
In a statement, Education Minister Grace Grace said she supported the school's principal and called for "common sense".
"I support The Gap State High School principal and the school community's actions in enforcing the uniform policy and urge all parties to take a commonsense approach and work together to resolve this issue at the school level," she said.
Ms Grace said she had been advised there'd been no changes to the uniform policy since 2004, a policy that had been formulated between the school and the P&C.
"The Gap State High School is not the only high school that enforces a uniform policy. It is common practice across Queensland state schools and uniform policies are always determined through consultation with the local school community," she added.
And in April, the deputy principal of Trinity Grammar was offered his job back after the prestige Melbourne school sacked him for cutting a student's hair.
After more than a month of angry protests, Rohan Brown was given his job back after he chopped the boy's hair on school photo day - because it didn't meet guidelines - sending the school council into a spin.
"I want to go back," he said. "I am proud of the Trinity community, it has been fabulous.
"It has been hard on the boys, the parents and the staff. They have been torn apart".
St Andrew's Cathedral School has been contacted for comment.