Parents support school after girl attacked

Parents have rallied behind Port Kembla Public School, rejecting claims the school needs a security revamp in the wake of an attack on an 11-year-old student last week.

Questions regarding the safety of the Gloucester Boulevard site were raised after an unknown male entered the school about 1.20pm on Thursday and attacked a fifth-grader in the toilet block.

The man forced the young girl into a cubicle and tied her up, before fleeing the scene.

Yesterday, president of the school P&C Donna Waters said parents were confident the school - which is bordered by waist-high fences and has a number of open-gate access points - was safe.

"Whilst the incident was distressing, it doesn't take away from the fact the school is very safe place and they've put many things in place to keep it that way," Mrs Waters said.

"The general consensus of the community is that we're very happy with the school as is and would hate to see any fences go up in response to this particular incident.

"There's no doubt that some parents would like it, but out of 100 or so families I think it would be the minority rather than the majority."

It was a view shared by Port Kembla mother Tammie Gowans, who was also against any moves to install large fences and security systems on the perimeter of the site.

"One of the things I love about this school is the environment and teachers are really lovely," Ms Gowans, who has a daughter in kindergarten, said.

"There's no need to put up fences, that wouldn't make a difference because I think it was just one of those one-off things.

"I don't want it to look like a jail."

Principal Kevin Tucker met parents yesterday morning as part of a dialogue between the school and parents regarding student safety.

The Department of Education and Communities reiterated the school's commitment to security in a statement to the Mercury yesterday.

"All schools require visitors to report to the school front office when visiting the school grounds," the statement read.

"Anyone acting suspiciously or anyone who does not belong on school grounds will be questioned by school staff and, if necessary, police will be called.

"During class time students are taught to move around the school grounds in pairs, and are encouraged to visit toilets during recess and lunch breaks when teachers actively monitor the toilet areas."

Police confirmed they would conduct a safety audit of the site this week, to look for any weaknesses in the school's systems, processes and general environment.

They will also conduct high-visibility and plain-clothes patrols of school areas.

The male attacker was described as 165 centimetres to 170 centimetres tall and wearing black tracksuit pants, a black hooded jumper and black joggers.

Police have called for anyone with information about the incident - or an incident in which a child was approached at Berkeley Public School the same afternoon - to contact Lake Illawarra detectives or Crime Stoppers.

Mother Tammie Gowans believes the school is safe. Picture: ROBERT PEET

Mother Tammie Gowans believes the school is safe. Picture: ROBERT PEET


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