Last week, our school recognised Harmony Day and Day of Action Against Bullying. As I addressed the issue of bullying in my previous newsletter article, I thought it would be timely to talk a little about the meaning of Harmony Day for our school community.Harmony Day is celebrated annually on the 21 March in Australia. The continuing message of Harmony Day is 'Everyone Belongs'. It is about community participation, inclusiveness, celebrating diversity, respect and belonging. This year, in the wake of the terrible atrocious perpetuated in Christchurch, Harmony Day 2019 was a well-timed reminder of how important it is for every day Australians to practice tolerance, understanding and kindness in order to create a harmonious society.
Schools are becoming very aware of ensuring that we are inclusive of students with different cultural, ethnic, language and religious backgrounds (although we are not perfect at doing this yet!). However, the concept of inclusivity is much broader, and includes our students with disability.At Moggill State School, approximately 25 of our students have a verified disability and many more have an unverified disability (such as ADHD, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, speech-language delays, sensory difficulties, learning difficulties and so on). In Australia, we have a Disability Discrimination Act that articulates our obligations as a school (and as a society in general) to support the needs of students who, through no fault of their own, are unable to access education on the same or equal basis without support and adjustments. When you see a student either struggling with their behaviour or acting in a noncompliant way, it is easy to label that child as "naughty" or "bad". Yet, it might be that the child is struggling with anxiety, or does not have the language skills to express how they are feeling, or might not yet have met a certain level of brain development that allows them to be able to self-regulate efficiently. It could be that they might be having difficulty dealing with the sensory demands of a classroom or playground or need to recharge their "social battery" so that they interact effectively with others again. For some children, controlling their impulsivity and knowing the appropriate behaviour isn't because of "bad parenting" or a lack of school "discipline" but a result of diagnosed or yet to be diagnosed medical conditions.
To be truly inclusive, we need to all understand and support our students with disability. As a parent, you can help your child to create a world that promotes respect and belonging by ensuring that you speak openly about disability, promoting empathy for how people and children with disability may struggle with every-day tasks or situations through no fault of their own. It's important to not speak negatively about other children to, or in front of your child. Encouraging your child to make friendships with students with a disability (or suspected disability) is also important, as children with disabilities are still children first. They want friends, respect, and inclusion just the same as any other human being. By promoting empathy and understanding for all children in our community is the best way to ensure our students grow into kind adults and minimises the risk of what all parents fear… bullying. As a community we can all do our part to ensure that we strive towards a harmonious school community – every day, and not just on one day of the year!For more information about the Departments' Commitment to Inclusion, please visit the Education Queensland website.