July 4: School Governance Weekly Wrap

AUSTRALIA

We asked five experts: should mobile phones be banned in schools?

In an article in the Conversation, and reprinted in the ABC News, NSW Minister for Education Rob Stokes has ordered a review into phone use in schools. He said the review would look at the risks and rewards of social media. The review will ultimately decide whether to ban mobile phones in NSW schools. Five experts were asked if schools should ban mobile phones in classrooms and 4 out of 5 experts said no, they should not be banned. One view is that phones are distracting, addictive and anxiety inducing. However, they are also useful learning tools, can boost safety and health, link young people with support services and encourage embracing digital literacy.

National Redress Scheme starts for survivors of child sexual abuse

According to the ABC News, more than 90 per cent of the estimated 60,000 survivors of child sexual abuse can now apply for redress after the scheme started yesterday, 1 July 2018. The maximum award has been capped at $150,000. Every state and territory has now opted into the scheme, as stated by SBS News, which is capped at $150 thousand dollars, the average payout amounting to $76 thousand. The National Office for Child Safety has also been established and commenced operation from 1 July 2018.

Catholic group seeks survivor input to new national child protection standards

According to the Newcastle Herald, an Australian Catholic organisation tasked with establishing professional standards to protect children has invited Hunter child sex survivors and advocates to discuss new draft standards at a meeting in Newcastle. Catholic Professional Standards Ltd has already invited some Hunter survivors and advocates to the Newcastle City Hall consultation forum on Monday at 2pm, and issued an open invitation to all Catholic abuse survivors and advocates in a media statement on Wednesday. The organisation issued draft National Catholic Safeguarding Standards in April, in response to the final report and recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. CPSL director of safeguarding, Kate Eversteyn, said the consultation forums taking place around the country were designed to hear from people abused in Catholic institutions, or directly impacted by abuse.

Archbishop Philip Wilson sentenced to 12 months’ detention for child abuse cover-up

According to ABC News, the most senior Catholic in the world to be convicted of concealing child sex abuse, Adelaide’s Archbishop Philip Wilson, has been sentenced to 12 months’ detention. Magistrate Robert Stone adjourned the matter to August 14 while Wilson is assessed for home detention. He will be eligible for parole after six months.

‘It was heartbreaking’: the discrimination in our schools

According to The Age, about one in six Victorian parents struggles to enrol their disabled children in mainstream government schools, according to a new report that reveals widespread discrimination in the state’s education system. The study by Monash University’s Castan Centre for Human Rights Law found 15 per cent of families had difficulty enrolling their disabled child in a mainstream state school, and the same proportion felt pressured to leave their school. The researchers said this discrimination often stemmed from schools struggling to access funding to support students with a disability. A 2016 review of Victoria’s program for students with a disability found while 15 per cent of Victorian students need support at school due to disability, only 4 per cent received funding.

NSW Attorney General asks DPP to consider fresh look at abuse case

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman has asked the Director of Public Prosecutions to consider reviewing a 2013 decision not to prosecute one of the state’s most senior Catholic educators for concealing child sex crimes. The DPP advised police in 2013 that charging the former NSW Catholic Schools Commission member and Christian Brother Anthony Whelan, 77, was “not in the public interest”, despite noting “there would appear to be a prima facie case” over his handling of allegations against teacher Thomas Keady in the 1970s. In its Criminal Justice Report released in 2017 the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse said it had “not particularly anticipated finding significant problems in decision-making processes” within Australian DPP offices, but investigations “revealed such problems”. It recommended “robust and effective” internal audit processes after finding some DPP decisions failed to comply with decision-making policies. It stopped short of recommending judicial reviews of DPP decisions after noting such reviews were not favoured by the High Court or DPPs.

WA Catholic priests who don’t report confessions of child sex abuse may be charged

According to News.com.au, Catholic priests in WA would face criminal charges if they refuse to break the seal of confession to report child sex abuse to police. But WA’s Archbishop refuses to support the call. This week, the McGowan Government unveiled its response to the Royal Commission’s 409 recommendations, which included a call to remove the seal of confession and force priests to report knowledge or suspicions of child sex abuse. The Government accepted that recommendation “in principle”. Under canon law, a priest faces excommunication for violating the seal. Last year, Archbishop Costelloe said if the law was changed, no child abuser would enter into confession and any chance they could be “open to persuasion” would be lost. From October, South Australia will become the first State to axe the confessional exemption, with priests facing a $10,000 fine if they don’t disclose abuse allegations. The ACT is also introducing similar laws. On Friday, Pope Francis officially accepted the resignation of Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart, who said he’d rather risk going to jail than breaking the seal of confession.

INTERNATIONAL

Vatican City still has no policy to fight clergy sex abuse

The New Zealand Herald has reported that Pope Francis has taken measures to address a spiraling sex abuse scandal in Chile, but he hasn’t moved on a problem closer to home: Vatican City itself does not have policies to protect children from pedophile priests or require suspected abuse to be reported to police. Seven years after the Vatican ordered all bishop conferences around the world to develop written guidelines to prevent abuse, tend to victims, punish offenders and keep pedophiles out of the priesthood, the headquarters of the Catholic Church has no such policy. The absence of clear-cut policy became evident late last year after revelations that a teenage seminarian in the Vatican’s youth seminary had, in 2012, accused one of the older boys of sexually molesting his roommate.

International students focus of new UK parliamentary inquiry

According to The Pie News, a new inquiry has been launched by a British parliamentary committee into the landscape faced by international students in the country. The All Party Parliamentary Group for International Students will ask industry leaders how the UK can “help map the way forward” for prospective mobile students. Although there have been several reports into mobile students in the UK recently, this inquiry will investigate the impact of such students across regions and communities, but also across all levels of study.

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