October 4: School Governance Weekly Wrap

AUSTRALIA

South Australian Government is Consulting Experts on whether to Toughen Laws to Prevent Bullying

According to The Advertiser, schools could be required by law to have anti-bullying policies to prevent bullying behaviour and intervene in nasty cases as the State Government considers new legislation. Attorney-General Vickie Chapman will host a discussion with experts to explore whether South Australia needs further criminal laws to address bullying in schools and, if so, what they should cover. Last year, MPs debated a Bill, known as ‘Libby’s Law’, which would have imposed a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment, but the Bill lapsed when Parliament broke for the March 2018 state election. The Liberal Government is considering what changes may be needed but its discussion paper to be presented to experts appears to warn against “criminalising” bullying behaviour among children stating that “there continues to be misinformation … that bullying alone causes suicide and that punitive responses to bullying and criminalisation are the most effective response…There appears to be no agreed understanding in the community about what bullying is, what is already being done to address it, or indeed, how to best address it.”

New South Wales Principal Tells Girls Short Shorts Make Male Staff ‘Uncomfortable’

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, female students at a Hunter high school have been told the length of their shorts is making male staff and students “uncomfortable” and puts staff in “potentially awkward situations”. Parents have called for a change of leadership at Beresfield’s Francis Greenway High, amid complaints about how the principal addressed an assembly of year seven to 11 girls on Tuesday about the school uniform. According to News.com.au, Francis Greenway High Principal Jo Edwards stood in front of the year seven to 11 students and said their short lengths could be putting staff in “potentially awkward situations”. According to The Herald, Ms Edwards told the female students their short-shorts were making some male staff “uncomfortable”. Around 20 girls have previously been sent home with letters asking them to wear shorts that are more “appropriate”. In the letter, Ms Edwards asked for girls to have their shorts “reach mid-thigh or lower” and was worried a shorter length could be a “child protection issue”. A Department of Education spokesperson said the principal “reiterated the importance of students wearing the correct uniform according to the policy endorsed by the school community”.

After-school Care in NSW: Kids could be Stranded with New Staff Ratio Rule

According to ABC News, hundreds of families who rely on minibuses to transport their children to after-school care could be left in the lurch due to new government regulations. After-school care providers will be required to employ an extra staff member on the bus as well as the driver due to changes to national laws. Some operators have said that this will make the bus runs not financially viable, forcing them to scrap services. The NSW Minister for Early Childhood Education, Sarah Mitchell, said the new regulations followed changes to national laws on staff-to-student ratios.

Every Two Weeks, a Queensland Teacher is Struck Off for Posing a Serious Risk to Children

According to The Age, more than one Queensland teacher a fortnight is banned or suspended from teaching for posing a serious risk to children, new data from the profession’s registration body has revealed. So far this year, the Queensland College of Teachers has launched proceedings to have 24 teachers disciplined for inappropriate conduct, including five female teachers, for illegal and inappropriate conduct including sexual relationships with students, having sleepovers and sexting. Chief executive of the Daniel Morcombe Foundation Holly Brennan, herself a former teacher, agreed there was “never an excuse” for a teacher to have a sexual relationship with a student, regardless of the student’s age.

Teachers, Nurses and Priests could be Jailed over Tasmania’s New Child Abuse Disclosure Laws

According to ABC News, teachers, nurses and priests are among some of the professionals who could face jail time under newly proposed mandatory reporting laws, if they fail to report suspected cases of child sex abuse. The Tasmanian Government unveiled draft legislation that breaks “the seal of confession” in churches and makes mandatory reporting a criminal matter. The draft legislation removes “the seal of confession”, forcing religious leaders to report revelations of child sex abuse heard during confession. While federal Attorney-General Christian Porter has called on all states to adopt legislation forcing them to report child sexual abuse, only South Australia has come on board so far, with its law already coming into effect. Tasmania will become the second state to pass such legislation if it is enacted.

Historic Teacher Sex Records from Three Schools Handed to Police

According to The Daily Telegraph, teacher’ records dating back 40 years have been handed over to police investigating claims staff at northern beaches high schools groomed and hunted students for sex. The Department of Education has confirmed it was ordered to hand over files from three schools to Strike Force Southwood by Education Minister Rob Stokes. The files are understood to show details such as disciplinary action and performance records, and include teaching staff at the former Cromer High School, where suspected killer and sports teacher Chris Dawson was engaged in a long-running affair with 16-year-old student Joanne Curtis. Strike Force Southwood was set up after former students claimed in The Australian newspaper’s podcast “The Teacher’s Pet” that a “pack” of teachers were having sex with Cromer High students in the 1980s. The investigation has since expanded to include former teachers from Beacon Hill High and Forest High.

INTERNATIONAL

Pope Defrocks Chilean Priest who Sexually Abused Minors

According to ABC News, Pope Francis has defrocked a Chilean priest who was a central character in the global sex abuse scandal rocking his papacy, invoking his “supreme” authority to stiffen an earlier sentence because of the “exceptional amount of damage” the priest’s crimes had caused. In a statement, the Vatican said Pope Francis had laicised 88-year-old Reverend Fernando Karadima, who was originally sanctioned in 2011 to live a lifetime of “penance and prayer” for having sexually abused minors in the upscale Santiago parish he ran. The Vatican said Pope Francis was doing so for “the good of the church”. The “penance and prayer” sanction has been the Vatican’s punishment of choice for elderly priests convicted of raping and molesting children. It has long been criticised by victims as too soft and essentially an all-expenses-paid retirement, and Karadima’s whistleblowers had pressed for it to be toughened. The Vatican cited no new evidence or crime that prompted Pope Francis to revisit the case and impose what clergy consider to be the equivalent of a death sentence.

Cameras on School Buses are an Option, says Canadian Privacy Commissioner

According to CBC News, the province’s Privacy Commissioner says the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District has the right to put cameras on school buses. The issue of cameras on buses came up last week when CBC News reported on allegations of sexual assault on a school bus in Western Newfoundland. A teenaged boy has been charged and faces three counts of sexual assault in relation to incidents involving two alleged victims. School board CEO Tony Stack has said cameras on buses would only be considered as a “last resort” due to privacy reasons. However, he cautioned that he is not advocating for such a change, because constant surveillance may do more harm than good, taking away children’s sense of independence. He also says there’s little evidence that video surveillance deters bad behaviour, noting cameras are more of a tool for capturing something that’s already occurred. He also questioned how effective one camera at the front of a bus would be.

Teachers Allegedly used Zip Ties to Restrain Young Students

According to News.com.au, two teachers in the US have resigned after allegations emerged that they were zip-tying children’s hands behind their backs as a form of punishment for acting out. Some of the students who were subjected to this disturbing punishment were just four years old. The allegations came to light after one of the parents of the students allegedly involved called Oak View Elementary in Georgia after their child made the shocking claim. The school reportedly sent out a letter informing parents of the allegations after they received a complaint about the incident. The letter said that the teachers involved had been suspended pending an investigation into the allegations. The two women resigned from their roles but the distraught mother said having them resign wasn’t enough.

Ministry of Education moves in on West Auckland School after Entire Board Resigns

According to The NZ Herald, education authorities have stepped in to help a West Auckland primary school after its entire board of trustees walked out. The Ministry of Education has moved in on Matipo Primary School, in Te Atatū Peninsula, after the remaining three members of its board resigned late last week. All three members, including the chair, were elected parent representatives. They declined to comment. This also follows historical concerns of serious misconduct relating to financial matters at the school; which led to investigations being carried out by the Ministry, the Education Council and police.

An Untold Number of Indigenous Children Disappeared at a US Boarding School. Tribal Nations are Raising the Stakes in Search of Answers.

According to The Intercept, a coalition of Indigenous organisations — including the National Congress of American Indians, which represents 250 Indigenous nations, the International Indian Treaty Council, the Native American Rights Fund, and the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition — has turned to the United Nations to demand that the U.S. government “provide a full accounting of the children taken into government custody under the U.S. Indian Boarding School Policy whose fate and whereabouts remain unknown.” According to Andrea Carmen, the executive director of the International Indian Treaty Council, the U.S. government’s failure to account for missing Native American boarding school children is “an ongoing human rights violation under international law.” The organisations are currently assembling the U.N. submission, which will include testimony from tribes and individuals whose children were lost.

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