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'We know what bus you catch' bullies texted to schoolgirl victim

The consequences were debilitating. This girl was unable to perform in her event. She didn’t know if any of her tormentors were in the audience or, even worse, backstage. She had started to refuse to take the bus. And now she was asking whether she had to go to school.

The case mirrored one I heard a year ago. But here was another child, and another mother, who could no longer hide the tears. She looked at me: What would I do?

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I’ve been asked that countless times, as parent after parent has told me their experience with bullying.

One girl was followed by a pack who would stamp on her lunch and throw the contents of her locker onto the floor before disappearing in a fit of giggles.

The victim alerted her teachers, who confronted the group. Her parents now think that was a mistake because she remains at the school, with the bullies, who have escalated their campaign.

“Please don’t say phones should be banned into school grounds,’’ one father told me. “That’s my wife’s lifeline to my daughter.’’

“If you have any influence, you’ll get rid of phones at school,’’ another said. “We send them to school to learn. Nothing good comes of them sitting around with a phone and time on their hand.’’

It’s not just girls. Boys have been targeted because they’ve said something silly, without thinking, or because they have a disability. Or because they just don’t fit into a peer pack-mentality.

Some of the bullying happens online during school hours. Much of it doesn’t.

Some has nothing to do with school, and breeds in extra-curricular organisations. It happens in the city, and in far-flung rural areas.

It happens to the children of cabinet ministers, and to those whose parents work in our hospitals and on our building sites and at our universities. It doesn’t have boundaries.

“Please don’t say phones should be banned into school grounds,’’ one father told me. “That’s my wife’s lifeline to my daughter.’’

But the need - and the will - to address it has probably never been stronger.

Since being appointed chair of a state taskforce , I’ve had just as many calls from those wanting to help stop it.

The anti-bullying taskforce is made up of a group of experts from across Queensland, with disciplines ranging from mental health to technology, teaching to neuroscience. Both the government and the opposition will sit at the same table, in a bid to make this a non-partisan lasting legacy for our children.

The head of taskforce Argos Inspector Jon Rouse, eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant and Queensland Family and Child Commissioner Cheryl Vardon are three of a dozen experts in their field who have volunteered their time.

Teachers have written almost as many notes as parents, saying they, too, want to be part of any solution.

But that doesn’t mean the solutions will be easy, or they will come out of that taskforce. Perhaps it will be a teacher in Winton who comes up with the idea that might really make a difference. Or a year 7 student in Coomera. Or a GP in Cannon Hill.

Our first meeting is tomorrow, coinciding with the national day of action against bullying and violence.

No idea is a bad one. But if we work together - teens and parents, teachers and community, professionals and bystanders - who knows what we might be able to do?

You can send your ideas to antibullyingtaskforce@premiers.qld.gov.au. Tomorrow we’ll also release a website address and other ways you can communicate your ideas.

Madonna King is chair of the state anti-bullying taskforce.

Madonna King

Madonna King is a leading journalist and commentator. She was an award-winning mornings presenter on 612 ABC Brisbane and is a five-times author.

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