August 2: School Governance Weekly Wrap

AUSTRALIA

Payout for young woman after school ignored request to repeat year 10

The Age has reported that a young woman from Victoria’s west recently won a payout from the Victorian Education Department after her family’s pleas to let her repeat Year 10 were ignored. The now 18-year-old, who has a mild intellectual disability, believes Heywood and District Secondary College indirectly discriminated against her when it promoted her to Year 11. Her father, who took legal action on her behalf in the Federal Court, said his daughter wasn’t able to meet the requirements of Year 11 because of her disability. Moving her up a year, he argued, would disadvantage her.

School violence: WA teachers seek new powers to expel violent students, break up fights

Perth Now has reported that public school teachers want to feel empowered to break up playground fights between kids and for the most violent offenders to face automatic expulsion. Education Minister Sue Ellery said this week that all options are “on the table” as she grapples with pockets of out-of-control student aggression and a surge in attacks on teachers. The review was launched by the WA Education Department after a Busselton Senior High School student was filmed punching, kicking and stamping on the head of another boy in March. It comes after physical attacks by students against teachers tripled from 165 in 2014 to reach 595 last year. Among the changes in a proposal to the WA Government by union president Pat Byrne is a streamlining of the “onerous” process to expel violent kids. The School Education Regulations allow teachers to make physical contact with a student to re-establish order or prevent them from placing others at risk, “Part of the uncertainty is because of a lack of clarity from the department as to what level of contact it views as acceptable and we would like that explained a lot better.”

Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson resigns amid child sex abuse cover-up

According to ABC News, Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson — the most senior Catholic in the world to be convicted of concealing child sex abuse. There had been intense pressure on Philip Wilson to officially step down from the role, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and other political leaders among those calling for his resignation. In a statement, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference said Wilson had “decided that his conviction means he can no longer continue as Archbishop because to do so would continue to cause pain and distress to many, especially to survivors and also in the Archdiocese of Adelaide”.

Female teacher developed ‘inappropriate relationship’ with girl student, tribunal hears

The Courier Mail has reported that the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal has found that a female teacher in her early 20s developed an inappropriate relationship with a vulnerable female student over two years, from when the girl was 15. The teacher, who was found to have lived with the girl in a sexual relationship from soon after the girl finished Year 12, has been barred from reapplying for registration until 2022. The Queensland teacher taught the “needy’’ girl, who was under the care of Child Safety, in her final three years of high school and was also her pastoral care teacher. The teacher, now 27, broke off her engagement with her long-term male partner in 2016, when the student was in Year 12, the tribunal heard. She flirted with the girl and there was an intimacy between them that was different to the usual teacher and student relationship. She crossed boundaries, despite warnings from other school staff, discussing personal matters with the girl and exchanging gifts. The student had a troubled background, and instead of protecting her, the pastoral care teacher exploited her neediness so she could form an intimate relationship with her, the tribunal found.

Perth private school teacher jailed over sexual abuse of two students

ABC News has reported that a teacher at a Perth private girls’ school has been jailed for almost five years for sexually abusing two of her teenage students after letting “her feelings overrule her brain”. The 35-year-old woman, who cannot be identified, pleaded guilty to 33 child sex offences committed between 2015 and 2017, when the two girls were aged about 15 and 16. She was a drama teacher and the victims were both students in her classes. The abuse happened over about 18 months, with the offences committed at the teacher’s residence and at the homes of the girls, whose families had befriended the woman. Judge Mark Herron described the offences as “brazen”, saying the woman had been trusted by the school and the girls’ families to care for and protect them. He said each of the victims was vulnerable and there was an element of “grooming” in what the woman had done, by taking advantage of them for her own sexual gratification.

Victorian Maths teacher gets jail sentence for indecent assaults on female students

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, a teacher from Melbourne’s western suburbs has been jailed following the indecent assault of two female students in the school’s library. Richard Grabski, 34, appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday after being found guilty of indecently assaulting children under his care following a three-day trial. 9news.com.au reported that Magistrate Jon Klestadt described Grabski’s actions as a “gross” breach of the trust placed in him as a teacher and said such crimes can be difficult to detect.

NSW Police to investigate historic sex abuse at northern beaches schools

According to The Daily Telegraph, the state’s top child abuse and sex crime cop is heading up an investigation into allegations of historic sexual assaults and teacher-student relationships at northern beaches high schools. Detectives from the Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad and Northern Beaches Police Area Command have established Strike Force Southwood to identify and investigate allegations dating back to the 1980s. Whistleblower Robyn Wheeler, 52, a former vice-captain at Cromer High, met with Mona Vale police on Tuesday where she gave information about alleged sexual assaults of pupils by teachers at the school. She said since coming out publicly about the culture of abuse at Cromer High in the 1980s, former pupils from Beacon Hill High and Forest High had also come forward. Ms Wheeler claimed at least three dozen former pupils were affected.

INTERNATIONAL

Bullies exist in all schools, expert Robert Pereira tells Dannevirke meeting

The New Zealand Herald has reported that international bully prevention consultant to schools Robert Pereira says there’s bullying in every school and any principal who suggests otherwise isn’t telling the truth. In a 2015 survey of 50 countries, New Zealand was second to Latvia for bullying. “All this Facebook stuff has lifted the bullying problem to a different level and it affects the mental well-being of teens,” Pereira said, “But it can start in pre-school and kindergarten. It’s a social cruelty and girls who get bullied become depressed, while boys are more likely to go into defence mode.” And the reasons girls bullied were different from the reasons boys did so. “They are like chalk and cheese. Girls are much more subtle, boys more obvious. You can hear boys bullying from 50 metres,” Pereira said, “Bullying happens in the largest and the smallest schools and it’s just as sophisticated in rural schools as in city schools.”

Pope Francis accepts resignation of Cardinal McCarrick following sex abuse scandal in the United States

According to ABC News, Pope Francis has accepted the resignation as a cardinal of Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, DC and one of the US Catholic Church’s most prominent figures, who has been at the centre of allegations of sex abuse with minors and young seminarians. Theodore McCarrick, 88, is the first cardinal in living memory to lose his red hat and title. Other cardinals who have been disciplined in sexual abuse scandals kept their membership in the College of Cardinals and their honorific “your eminence”. The scandal surrounding him has stunned the American Church because he was a widely respected leader for decades and was a confidant of popes and presidents.

New Zealand’s primary school leaders experiencing high rates of physical violence

The NZ Herald has reported that primary school leaders experience physical violence at 10 times the rate of the general population and threats of violence at nearly five times, a health and wellbeing survey has found. The New Zealand Educational Institute Te Riu Roa report found that in 2017, 41 per cent of principals, deputies and their assistants experienced physical violence, and 38 per cent were subjected to threats. Both rates had increased from about 28 per cent in 2016. NZEI Te Riu Roa recommended resourcing and staffing be increased to support the growing number of students with challenging behaviours. It also called for school boards to uphold safe environments in schools, a mediation service for families and schools, regular teacher training in responding to violent situations, increased mentoring and counselling, and more thorough investigations of violent incidents and bullying.

School policy ‘red flags’ may be key in case of teacher charged in drowning death of student in Canada

According to CBC News, proving criminal negligence, in general, can be a challenging task for prosecutors. And in the case of an Ontario teacher facing that charge in connection with the drowning death of a student, legal experts say the Crown will be facing an unusual set of circumstances. According to the lead prosecutor, he hasn’t previously come across any similar cases, where a teacher has been charged for something that occurred on a school trip. The Office of the Public Prosecutor announced that Nicholas Mills, 54, had been charged with criminal negligence causing death, one year after 15-year-old Jeremiah Perry drowned during a week-long field trip to Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park. Jeremiah was three days into the outdoor education and canoe excursion last July when he went for an evening swim with classmates and disappeared under the water. His body was found by a police rescue unit the next day.  His family has said the teen did not know how to swim. A third party review found Jeremiah had not passed the Toronto District School Board’s mandatory swim test and was not wearing a life-jacket. Students were required to pass the test before going on such trips. The school board also reported that about half of the 33 students on the trip had failed the swim test — which involved water safety, lap swimming and underwater endurance evaluations — but were allowed to go anyway.

Leave a comment