Calare Public School, Orange / Picture: Jeff Death
Principal calls mentally ill children “morons” and “idiots”
Refers to kids with “two heads” and “webbed feet”
School community voices disgust at abhorrent spray
Principal counselled but not sacked
THE primary school principal who outraged parents and disability groups by referring to students who have mental problems or have been bullied as “morons”, “nut cases” and “village idiots” has apologised to parents of children at the school.
The government school principal had even suggested staff attempting to identify students to participate in a mental health and social skills program look for children with “two heads” and “webbed feet”.
In a tasteless newsletter to staff at Calare Public School in Orange, Christian Cundy said: “I will send out a well-scripted letter in week 4 starting off — Have you bred a moron? You might like to access the services of Calare’s new initiative, ‘Operation Nutcase’. Sign on the dotted line or leave your thumbprint if you cannot write.”
The principal’s comments provoked anger and disgust, and prompted a complaint to the Education Department. They were also condemned by anti-bullying and disabled children’s groups.
But today he sent an apology to all parents and carers after heavy media attention to his original letter to staff.
Mr Cundy’s apology letter to parents and carers at Calare Public School.
“I have apologised to staff. My attempt at humour was misguided and inappropriate,” Mr Cundy wrote.
“I apologise for any hurt or grief I have caused anybody in the school and wider Calare community.”
Mr Cundy was reprimanded, made to apologise and counselled. Education Minister Adrian Piccoli would not comment yesterday.
In his newsletter “Lizard Tracks — Principal Communication”, Mr Cundy was informing staff of an all-day program to be conducted at the school by a professional company.
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Part of Principal Cundy’s letter.
The principal said in his newsletter: “If you are a bit of a nut yourself you might want to squeeze in a session between the kids and lie on my couch …
“Seriously, please start identifying students at our school with the following characteristics — suffering from undue anxiety, lacking any resilience, poor socialising skills, two heads, webbed feet, village idiots. I would like to start Operation Nutcase in week 5 but this might be a bit ambitious. All victims, er candidates, must have a signed form from parents before we commence.
Christian Cundy, principal of Calare Public School, Orange / Picture: Supplied
“We will have groups roughly of 10 (but in the two-headed group there will only be 5).”
Anonymous complaints about the newsletter were made to the department and to The Daily Telegraph.
The Telegraph has been told that the jokes, at the expense of children with disabilities or mental health issues, have greatly upset some members of the school community. A department spokesman yesterday said: “The principal appreciates that the material was unacceptable and apologises for any offence it caused.
“He has undertaken not to include any material of this nature in future staff newsletters. He has been formally counselled by the department.
“The department stresses that the material is contrary to the values of public education and the school’s track record of support for students with disabilities and other learning needs.”
The newsletter went out to about 50 people, including present and former staff, but not to the wider school community.
Autism Advisory and Support Service founder and president Grace Fava said she was angered by the “shameful” comments and called for stronger action against the principal.
“You do not joke about this — he is supposedly the head of a school filled with kids who have special needs,” Ms Fava said.
“This is the culture among a small number of principals and I do not understand why.
“We need principals who have a culture of open-mindedness, acceptance and tolerance so our kids can fulfil their potential. A reprimand is not enough, a slap on the wrist is not enough.”
Alannah and Madeline Foundation chief Dr Judith Slocombe said the key to the success of programs to help children with problems “starts right at the top”.
Teachers Federation president Maurie Mulheron said the union supported “high-quality, sophisticated anti-bullying and mental health programs”.
“They often make a critical difference in a child’s life — that is why student welfare is (and should always be) taken very seriously by the teaching profession,” he said.