A north-east parent has told of their fears for their children after shocking videos emerged of violence at an Aberdeenshire school.
The parent of a Mearns Academy pupil — who has been a victim of bullying — said they are “terrified” for their children every day as they wave them off to school.
The concerned parent says their children have witnessed “unbelievable” scenes there and likened them to “something from a movie”.
Instead, they argue Scottish Government rules have left schools’ hands tied when it comes to dealing with problem pupils.
With expulsions increasingly difficult to enforce, violent pupils are left feeling “untouchable”.
Jewellery ripped out in Mearns Academy attack
The parent’s child was beaten up by a fellow pupil last year, which resulted in their earrings being ripped out, as well as chunks of their hair.
They said: “They just completely battered my child, I had never seen children fight like this.
“They had their skull smashed off the concrete ground.”
Videos of violence circulate on Snapchat
The parent said videos of violence are regularly shared on social media.
They added: “My child’s friend would just be sitting there having lunch with their friends and this pupil came up to them and punched them on the side of the head.
“They hit them to the ground and then kicked them in the face.
“This would happen on a weekly basis. It was all getting videoed and circulated on Snapchat.”
The Press and Journal has seen five of these disturbing videos and has disguised the identity of the pupils involved.
We have chosen not to publish the full videos in order to protect the identities of the victims.
In one, a boy squares up to another, before headbutting him and launching him into a bush, surrounded by other pupils.
In another, a pupil is filmed being repeatedly struck near a set of stairs near the school.
Other footage seen by The Press and Journal shows two boys squaring up and swinging at each other before a teacher intervenes.
‘It’s not the school’s fault’, argues parent
The parent does not blame the school and says Mearns Academy did everything they could to protect their child.
Rather, they argue Scottish Government policy has left teachers and schools powerless in the face of increasingly violent schools.
They said: “The problem is, under GIRFEC (Getting It Right For Every Child), the school cannot deny this child’s right to an education. They cannot throw them out – it’s almost impossible for them to get a child expelled from school.
“If I went into my workplace, and one of my colleagues did that to me, I would be signed off with full pay and that person would be fired. They wouldn’t ever get back in that building. I’d get counselling, and the company would have to pay for that.
“And I’m thinking, is my child expected to just turn up at school again the next day?
“It’s not the schools’ fault. Their hands are tied when it comes to punishments. It’s very hard for a school to expel a child these days.”
‘Schools are so restricted in what they can do now’
The parent wants schools to be given more power, both to nip violence in the bud when it happens and to ensure there are fitting repercussions for perpetrators.
They said: “I think schools across the board need to be given more powers when dealing with children. That goes for police as well, because I’ve been in touch with them too.
“We need to live in a world where there’s not so many snowflakes.
“When things happen, there need to be more severe repercussions.
“I’m not blaming the school, I’m not blaming the council. I’m blaming the Scottish Government for the laws that they have brought in which tie everybody’s hands.
“Schools are so restricted in what they can do now.”
‘Somebody’s going to get killed’
The parent we spoke to fears that without handing schools back some authority in maintaining order and discipline, even more violent incidents could follow.
They said: “They’re untouchable [the pupils] and they know it. They just don’t care.
“In situations that would have terrified us as kids, they just think it’s funny.
“There’s no respect or fear for authority.
“They’re just kids but they’re fighting like adults.
“It makes me absolutely terrified for my kids.
“Nobody should be sending their kids to school – in any country – with the fear that something’s going to happen.”
Violence in schools ‘completely unacceptable’, says Scottish Government
A Scottish Government spokesman said violence in schools was “completely unacceptable”.
But he said responding to behaviour issues in schools is ultimately a matter for local authorities.
That said, the Scottish Government is taking action, including commissioning national research on behaviour in schools and establishing a head teachers’ task force, and behaviour summits were held last year.
The spokesman also pointed out that it is not illegal for school staff to intervene in events in which pupils are in danger of harming themselves or others.
Susan Smith, Aberdeenshire Council’s head of education, said school staff work closely with pupils and parents to resolve behavioural problems.
She added: “While exclusion is always seen as a last resort, we will not tolerate negative effects on the welfare and education of other pupils in the school.
“Physical and verbal abuse in our schools is completely unacceptable, however it must be stressed that the vast majority of our pupils are well-behaved.”