A government-backed programme that will record students’ character profiles could block them from employment opportunities years after graduating.
BULLYcheck, an intitiative launched by ClubNSW and supported by the state government, began its trial
period two weeks ago in Murray River and gives employers the right to obtain a character reference for potential employees from their high school principals.
Jeremy Bath from ClubNSW helped develop the programme.
He likened BULLYcheck to preexisiting reference checks used by employers.
“People aged 17 to 22 – we have picked that age group because that is when most people leave school,” he said.
Students who give consent for a club to make contact with their high school principal will allow prospective employers to have a confidential conversation with principals about any bullying behaviour.
“It’s similar to when you have to give details of referees when applying for any job, but with an emphasis on bullying to stop that occurring in the work place.”
CEO of Murray Downs Golf and Country Club, Greg Roberts, is one of 12 employers trialing the programme.
He responded to critics who said people mature and naturally grow out of such behaviour.
“BULLYcheck is not about punishing children; it is about prevention,” he said.
“We, as an employer, want to ensure we have a safe workplace. This programme can assist schools in getting children to modify their behaviour.”
ClubNSW is planning to run anti-bullying workshops in late August.
“We simply want to stop the kind of bullying that graduates from school and into the workplace,” Mr Bath said.
“People will have the opportunity to identify themselves as a former bully and show remorse during these checks.”
But, how do you know if you are a bully?
“It becomes bullying when the verbal or physical assault is systematic, deliberate and repeated,” Mr Bath said.
Although ultimately in favour of the programme, William D’anthes, a member of Parents and Citizens Association at Pyrmont Public School, can see issues arising from this.
“People can bully without realising that they are actually doing it,” he said.
“People can also react in different ways. Scraps in the playground might be fine for some, but be hurtful to another. It’s hard to know where the line is.”
One way to eliminate subjectivity from reference checks could be to speak to more than just the high school principal.
“Any reference can have a damaging effect on your future,”
Mr D’anthes said. “That’s why we tend to have more than one referee to balance it out. [Speaking to more than one teacher] is a possibility, but that could get quite complicated.”
If BULLYcheck proves to decrease reports of bullying at the test schools over the next 12 months, ClubNSW will look to expand the initiative across the state.