September 27: School Governance Weekly Wrap

AUSTRALIA

Landmark legislation paves the way to redress for thousands of Queensland child sex abuse victims

Qld Media Release has reported that Minister Farmer, who guided the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse (Commonwealth Powers) Bill 2018 through Parliament, has hailed the legislation as a significant step in acknowledging and supporting those who had been abused in Queensland government and non-government institutions. “This legislation paves the way for the commencement of the government’s participation in the National Redress Scheme in our state,” Ms Farmer said. People who received redress under the Queensland Redress Scheme will still be eligible to apply for redress under the National Scheme. Ms Farmer said the Queensland Government’s participation in the Scheme was expected to commence by late 2018.

Western Australian primary schools to make play a priority for 2019

According to The Age, the serious concerns of teachers and parents about the demise of play-based learning in Western Australian primary schools appears to have been recognised, with play now a priority for 2019. WA Education Department Acting Director-General Jennifer McGrath’s new Focus 2019 document for schools instructs administrations to emphasise the role of play-based learning in a balanced curriculum for kindergarten and pre-primary students. Children needed to regularly be involved in a range of high quality indoor and outdoor play experiences to optimise their learning, development and well-being. People who educated and cared for young children would be delighted to learn that play-based learning had been identified as a key priority in the Department of Education WA Focus 2019 Report. But translating the Department of Education’s priority into transparent and accountable practice to families and the wider community will be dependent on school commitment.

Salvation Army chaplain, 86, cries ‘lies!’ as judge gives him 15 years for serial sex abuse

According to The New Daily, Raymond Maurice Pethybridge’s victims were innocently being babysat, sitting on his lap, jumping into his arms in the deep end of a pool or working alongside the Salvation Army chaplain when they were sexually assaulted. The 86-year-old was jailed for 17 offences across Sydney and regional New South Wales between 1958 and 1987. He was found guilty at two trials earlier this year for attempted rape, multiple counts of indecent and sexual assault and three counts of sexual intercourse with a person aged between 10 and 16. Five of his attacks involved adult female employees of the Salvation Army, including one with a disability, and 12 attacks concerned children, including a girl he was babysitting in his own flat, the judge said. The judge said children “have a fundamental right to be left alone sexually” and sexual exploitation cannot be tolerated. Pethybridge will be eligible for parole in August 2028, when he’ll be 96.

Possible civil action over alleged teacher sex ring heats up

According to 9news.com.au, Maurice Blackburn, a leading law firm in the area of child sexual abuse in institutions, is investigating claims teachers groomed students for sex at Cromer High, Forest High and Beacon Hill High (closed in 2002), all situated on Sydney’s northern beaches. Nine.com.au understands that a number of ex-students have now formally instructed Maurice Blackburn to act on their behalf. When contacted, a Maurice Blackburn spokesperson said the firm had progressed its investigations and had now reached a stage of “commencing correspondence with the NSW Department of Education”.

United States man jailed for 35 years for grooming a 16 year-old Sydney girl online to travel overseas for sex

According to ABC News, a 40-year-old man from the US has been sentenced to 35 years in prison, after he groomed a 16-year-old girl from Sydney on social media to travel to the United States for sex. The teenager’s parents reported her missing from her home on Sydney’s upper north shore in April last year, and she was found a month later with Sean Price in New York, where he was arrested. Price was found guilty of four charges in December last year, including interstate and foreign enticement to engage in sexual activity, and attempted sexual exploitation of a minor. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the child predator used Facebook and Snapchat to lure the 16-year-old girl from Lindfield to fly to Los Angeles so he could sexually abuse her and has been sentenced to 35 years jail.

Two-thirds of young people experience “worrying levels” of exam stress, ReachOut survey finds

ABC News has reported that two-thirds of young people are now experiencing “worrying levels” of exam stress, a study by youth service ReachOut has found. A national survey of 1000 young people aged between 14 and 25 revealed those experiencing worrying levels of exam stress had increased from 51.2 per cent in 2017 to 65.1 per cent in 2018. Traditionally, expectations from parents and schools have been among the greatest source of stress for young people. However this year young people were increasingly worried about the future in general (42.8 per cent, compared to 37.1 per cent last year) and getting a job (38.2 per cent, compared to 29.6 per cent in 2017). Crucially, ReachOut’s study also found that the number of young people seeking mental health or medical help had doubled in the past year from 15.5 per cent in 2017 to 30.5 per cent this year.

INTERNATIONAL

Canadian teacher assaulted in school calls on province to review classroom safety

According to CBC News, if used properly, rooms in schools to isolate children with behavioural problems can be helpful to special needs students and staff, says a former teacher whose career ended after she was violently attacked in her classroom. Pamela Orr said she was violently assaulted in her own classroom in February 2010 by a 17-year-old special needs student. As a result of her injuries, Orr said, she now struggles to stand and walk, to remember, and to handle the simple tasks of daily living. She called on the province to conduct a review of special needs education that would take into account the issue of staff safety. Education Minister David Eggen responded by launching a review of isolation rooms, saying his department in the next few weeks will come up with guidelines for their use, stating that “we do have to balance the education assistant and teacher safety with care and attention for students as well.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses accused of mishandling abuse in Montana

According to UK Business Insider, a trial begins in the next week in the tiny city of Thompson Falls for one of dozens of lawsuits filed nationwide in the last decade over claims of child sexual abuse in Jehovah’s Witness congregations. Worldwide, there have been more allegations of mismanagement and cover-ups of sexual abuse by Jehovah’s Witness clergy and members, including cases in Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. The Montana trial involves two women, now 32 and 21, who are suing the national Jehovah’s Witness organisation and its Thompson Falls congregation. One woman alleges a family member abused her and her brother in the 1990s. The abuse continued in the mid-2000s with the second woman, the first woman’s niece, after the congregation’s elders expelled the abuser from the congregation in 2004 and reinstated him the next year, according to the lawsuit. The women say the local and national organisations were negligent and violated a Montana law that requires them to report abuse to outside authorities. They are seeking an unspecified amount in damages. Both sides acknowledge that when a person is accused of sexual abuse, elders in a Jehovah’s Witness congregation are required to first contact the headquarters’ legal department to determine their next step. The organisation’s policy says it will instruct elders to report the matter if a minor is still in danger of abuse or if there is another valid reason. The San Diego attorney representing the women says that this a new policy change.

New Zealand high school principal Virginia Crawford angers with truant speech

According to the NZ Herald, the principal of a large secondary school has taken a ‘tough love’ approach to truancy – telling students who cut class they are highly likely to go to prison, be illiterate or be a rape or suicide victim. The speech by Hamilton’s Fraser High School principal Virginia Crawford was secretly recorded by a student and was uploaded to video sharing site YouTube at 8pm. It has drawn the ire of students and parents on social media with many condemning the speech as demotivating and stereotyping. According to News.com.au, more than 100 high school students have stormed out of class in protest at their principal’s comments. There have also been reports of unrest, with graffiti and vandalising of school property. Student Cody Barron, 16, said the speech had since divided the school, with people either supporting her or upset at what she said.

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