May 30: School Governance Weekly Wrap

AUSTRALIA

Philip Wilson to step down as Archbishop of Adelaide after conviction, but refuses to resign

In a follow up to last week’s Weekly Wrap, ABC News has reported that Adelaide’s Catholic Archbishop Philip Wilson, who is facing up to two years in jail for covering up child sexual abuse, says he will stand aside from his duties, but will not resign unless it becomes “necessary or appropriate”. The Conversation has also done a good article on why this is such a landmark ruling especially in the lead up to Cardinal Pell’s trial.

Aussie gymnasts educated about sex abuse

The Herald has reported that Gymnastics Australia has partnered with Bravehearts to train staff and athletes to identify sexual abuse. The child-friendly tools will be shared with all 600-plus affiliated gymnastics clubs and 220,000 athletes from September. Expert training will be mandatory for coaches and officials. Information will be provided about child sex assault, risk factors and how to avoid them, identifying grooming or predatory behaviour, how to respond to disclosures and understanding signs of harm in children. Gymnastics Australia chief executive Kitty Chiller told AAP at the launch the first priority was to ensure all members – with 90 per cent under age 12 – felt safe, confident and empowered.

States to review child sex abuse cover-up laws

According to The Australian, Australia’s top lawmakers will consider reforms to ensure all ­jurisdictions can mount criminal prosecutions when information about child sexual abuse is deliberately covered up. The issue will be raised at a Council of Attorneys-General meeting in Perth on June 8 after the Archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson, was this week convicted in a Newcastle court of covering up child sexual abuse during the 1970s in the NSW Hunter region – “Given the Wilson case, and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, it is incumbent on us to … consider whether further criminalisation of this area of concealment is the way to go.” There is a good follow up on the initial journalist who exposed the scandal at the Boston Globe by SBS News.

‘Ellis defence’ scrapped as Victorian law change opens church up to abuse legal action

The ABC News reported on the passing of the Legal Identity of Defendants (Organisational Child Abuse) Bill 2018 in Vic Parliament which ensures the Ellis Defence is overturned. The Ellis Defence stems from the case of Mr Ellis which ultimately failed because the church successfully argued it did not legally exist as its assets were held in a trust, and that was protected from legal action. The new law marks a significant shift for survivors of clergy abuse who, until now, have had to rely on the goodwill of the church to nominate a legal entity, like a bishop, who would agree to be sued.

South Australia signs up to national redress scheme for institutional child sexual abuse

ABC News reported that the South Australian Government has announced it will sign up to the national redress scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse. The Labor Government repeatedly refused to sign up to the scheme, saying it didn’t take into account the state’s existing scheme that was set up in the wake of the Mullighan Inquiry. But newly elected Liberal Premier Steven Marshall said the Government had signed off on the scheme, with victims to get compensation as soon as possible. Western Australia is now the only state not to sign up to the scheme.

Teacher’s pet: sue or prosecute predator teachers in NSW, students told

According to The Australian, leading child protection advocate Hetty Johnston says former Cromer High students should go to Police or a lawyer about predator teachers, as a pattern of disturbing behaviour emerges. One teacher climbed through a student’s window at night and others supplied drugs and alcohol to pupils aged 15 and 16 at the school, on Sydney’s northern beaches. But it wasn’t only girls targeted. Former Cromer High art teacher Peter Wayne Scott, who once produced rock videos for some of Australia’s biggest bands, drugged and abused young boys. Scott was sentenced to 14 years’ jail in 2014 for the sexual abuse of five male students from 1984 to 1986. They were aged from 11 to 16. In a separate case, Robert Ian Drummond was an English teacher at Cromer High when arrested in 2007 for using a hidden camera to film up the skirt of a 14-year-old girl at a mall. A department spokesman said it could investigate in cases where teachers were still employees. Schools were always obliged to report alleged criminal conduct but during the 1970s and 80s “there were not the detailed ­reporting policies that exist today and there was no departmental ­investigative unit”.

Private schools urged to offer girls pants and trousers as part of uniform policy

The ABC News reported that schools across Australia could face a wave of legal complaints if uniform policies do not modernise to allow girls to wear shorts and pants, South Australia’s Equal Opportunity Commissioner has warned. She said a failure to offer gender-inclusive uniform policies could breach equal opportunity and anti-discrimination laws. Last year, the WA Government made it mandatory for schools to offer girls the choice of wearing pants or a dress to school, but other states have refused to follow suit. In South Australia, uniform policies are highly variable, especially throughout the private sector, and Catholic Education SA has asked schools to review them “in light of the needs” of current students. There have been several recent legal battles in New South Wales involving parents who had challenged school policies, but it is largely up to individual schools. Currently, SA Education Department guidelines require dress codes to be flexible “regardless of a student’s gender” to allow for “freedom of movement, level of comfort [and] safety”, among other factors. But the policy only applies to government schools, and “independent and faith-based schools set their own policy”, a department spokesperson said. Follow up article on 9news.com.au.

‘Schools need to react quickly’: Education expert urges smartphone ban

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, smartphones should be banned at primary level and high schools should “act quickly” to teach tech self-discipline to stem the damage they are causing children’s learning, warns world-renowned Finnish education expert Pasi Sahlberg. Dr Sahlberg, who will join the University of New South Wales as professor of education this year, said smartphones were distracting students from reading, school-related work, physical activity, and high-quality sleep. Education Minister Rob Stokes said some primary schools were already prohibiting access to smartphones for non-educational purposes, a move he supported. Dr Sahlberg said a complete ban at high school level was difficult, because students didn’t know the world without technology. Instead, each school must work out the best way to teach its pupils how to exercise self-control around their phones. Chris Presland, president of the NSW Secondary Principals Association, agreed a ban was unworkable at high school level and education was the key, although teaching students how to exercise constraint was difficult given many adults struggled with that, too.

 

INTERNATIONAL

Transgender Student in United States Bathroom Dispute Wins Court Ruling

According to the New York Times, a federal judge in Virginia has found in favor of a transgender student whose efforts to use the boys’ bathrooms at his high school reached the Supreme Court and thrust him into the middle of a national debate about the rights of transgender students. The school board had maintained that Mr. Grimm’s “biological gender” was female and had prohibited administrators from allowing him to use the boys’ restrooms. He sued the school board in July 2015, alleging that its policy violated Title IX as well as the equal protection clause of the Constitution. The judge rejected the school board’s argument that its policy was justified by the need to protect the privacy rights of students, saying that “preventing Mr. Grimm from using the boys’ restrooms did nothing to protect the privacy rights of other students, but certainly singled out and stigmatised Mr. Grimm.” A follow up article is in the SBS News.

The Equestrian Coach in the United States Who Minted Olympians, and Left a Trail of Child Molestation

The New York Times has reported that the equestrian community has been rocked by the revelations of abuse made by five students, the broad strokes of which were first reported last month by The Chronicle of the Horse, an industry publication. It has shaken an insular universe in which Mr. Jimmy A. Williams, in life and after, was a mythic figure, revered for his knack with difficult horses and for churning out top-flight riders. Interviews with 38 former students, trainers, grooms, equestrian officials and members of the Flintridge Riding Club reveal a rarefied social scene in which Mr. Williams groped and kissed young girls publicly and with impunity — though few knew the true extent of the abuse. They describe a toxic brew of prestige and ambition that led parents, bent on their child’s success in the show ring, to ignore his near daily predations — and persuaded children who were afraid of losing beloved horses to stay silent.

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