November 15: School Governance Weekly Wrap

AUSTRALIA

Schools Called to Take Action on Bullying for National Day of Action

The Education Council has released a new media release urging schools across Australia to get involved and take action on the ninth National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence (NDA), to be held on 15 March 2019. Next year’s theme is Bullying. No Way! Take action every day. For the 2018 NDA, the Education Council asked schools to ‘Imagine a world free from bullying’ in a student engagement activity. They will build on this theme next year by asking schools to share how they turn ideas into action to address bullying with student-led action areas.

Bullying Rife in Australian Primary Schools Report

SBS News has reported that bullying is rife in Australian primary schools and, according to new research, it severely affects the learning of young students. A report by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute’s (MCRI) Centre for Adolescent Health found that around half of students in Years 3 to 5 report some level of bullying and more than 20 per cent are being bullied across two or even three years. The report, which came from a longitudinal study of more than 1,200 students in metropolitan Victoria, said bullying should be “considered a major barrier to effective learning” in Australia. MCRI’s Professor George Patton said it is likely that every Year 3, 4 and 5 classroom in Australia has at least one child experiencing persistent bullying. The report also detailed how thousands of Australian primary school students are experiencing mental health issues like depression and anxiety as a result. Bullying was recently recognised as a risk factor for mental illness in a major international disease study for the first time in the previous week.

Three HSC Students Escorted to Exams While Under Investigation for Sexual Assault

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, three students from a school in Sydney’s west sat their HSC exams while under police investigation for allegedly sexually assaulting a male year 10 student at their school. A spokeswoman for the school told the Herald that the year 12 boys at the Anglican school were escorted to their exam rooms from the main office throughout the HSC exams “to expedite their time on school grounds”. Police have spoken to the complainant and are currently halfway through investigating the allegations but no charges have been laid. A police spokesman said that the incident has been referred to the NSW Police Child Abuse and Sex Crime Squad.

Queensland Government Strengthens Blue Card System

According to a Qld Media Statement, the Queensland Government is further strengthening Queensland’s blue card system with eight more disqualifying offences and the introduction of a new Bill legislating the ‘No Card, No Start’ scheme. The Working with Children (Risk Management and Screening) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 includes a number of Queensland Family and Child Commission (QFCC) recommendations, such as a centralised register for recording and reporting on the blue card status of foster and kinship carers, family day care educators, stand-alone care providers and adults who reside in these residences, requiring all adult household members of stand-alone care services to hold a blue card and including the Department of Education within the definition of ‘notifiable person’ so that it receives notifications about changes to the blue card status of individual family day care educators and adult household members. The Government will also implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission and QFCC to include bestiality, kidnapping of a child, kidnapping for ransom of a child, child stealing and abduction of a child under 16 as disqualifying offences under the Working with Children Act.

Government Taskforce to Redesign SA’s Child Abuse and Neglect Early Intervention and Prevention System

According to The Mirage News, a newly formed South Australian Government Taskforce has been charged with redesigning South Australia’s child abuse and neglect early intervention and prevention system. The Taskforce establishment forms part of the Government’s commitment to targeting early intervention and prevention, with the aim of reducing the impact and extent of child abuse and neglect in South Australia. The Taskforce, chaired by the Department for Child Protection Chief Executive Cathy Taylor, has been formed with a whole of government approach, with senior executive representatives from Education, Human Services, Health, SA Police, Treasury, Premier & Cabinet and Child Protection. The Taskforce will provide the State Government with a better understanding of what is needed to achieve system reform and will focus on six key areas. These include designing new early intervention and prevention pilot programs and improving current services.

Uproar after Nazi Hats, Gas Canisters and Swastika Cake Used in Class

According to The Age, a Victorian state school employee is being investigated after he brought firearms into class, baked a cake with a swastika on it and let a student dress up in his Nazi hat. During a history lesson on World War II, the Dromana Secondary College employee also allowed students to play with a replica Zyklon B gas canister, which resembled one that would have been used to kill Jews. The items were part of his personal collection of military memorabilia. Students also handled rifles, helmets and uniforms once worn by Australian troops. The Victorian Education Department is investigating the incident, which it described as a “serious error of judgement”.

INTERNATIONAL

Jehovah’s Witness Child Sexual Abuse Survivor Urges Examination of NZ Church

According to Stuff.co.nz, survivors want to see Jehovah’s Witnesses held accountable for previous child sexual abuse and want the church to apologise. But mostly, they want the church to fully shed its “two witness” rule – a policy, they argues, that makes the church a beacon for child sexual predators. The Final Australian Royal Commission Report found that there had been recorded allegations, reports, or complaints of child sexual abuse against 1006 Jehovah’s Witness members since 1950. The commission said there was no evidence of the organisation reporting a single case to secular authorities and the organisation had seriously failed to protect children. If New Zealand’s current Royal Commission into historical abuse in state care also looked into child sexual abuse in religious institutions, survivors argue that the numbers would be comparable to Australia and, proportionally, worse than the paedophilia scandal that has rocked Catholicism. The NZ Royal Commission is focusing on abuse in state care, although there has been lobbying to broaden the scope.

Outrage over Photo of US Students Giving Nazi Salute

According to The New Daily, a group of students at a US high school dance are being investigated by police after they were photographed displaying what appears to be the Nazi salute. The photo, which shows more than 50 students from Baraboo High School in Wisconsin taking part in the salute at their prom, was posted to Twitter on Sunday by an account called GoBaraboo. The school’s district administrator Lori Mueller tweeted that the photo posted under the hashtag was “not reflective of the educational values and beliefs of the School District of Baraboo”. In a statement to parents, she said the photo – in which students appear to “be making extremely inappropriate gestures” – was taken last US spring. “It was not taken on school property or at a school-sponsored event.”

Texas High School Teacher Commits Suicide in Classroom

According to News.com.au, a high school has been placed on lockdown after a teacher was found unresponsive in his classroom. Officials said the schoolteacher committed suicide in his classroom while school was in session. A staff member at Wessendorff Middle School in Rosenberg found fine arts teacher Jordan Halane unconscious. He was rushed to a local hospital, where he later died. The New York Post reported that the school district believes it was the teacher’s intent to harm himself, though they did not provide any details on his cause of death. Following the tragic discovery, students were placed on hold in their classrooms. The school notified parents of the supposed suicide before notifying students.

‘I Made a Mistake,’ Says Canadian Headmaster who Expelled Boys for Eating Cannabis Fudge

According to CBC News, after expelling a handful of students for eating cannabis-infused fudge on campus, the headmaster of a private boarding school in Windsor, Nova Scotia, has welcomed them back, saying his decision to expel them was a mistake. Three weeks ago, some boys at King’s-Edgehill School ate marijuana fudge and their physical reaction was so extreme that they got scared. One of the boys asked for help from a teacher. Headmaster Joseph Seagram would not say how many boys were involved, but said they were senior students at the school, which serves grades 6-12. Seagram said the boys experienced vomiting, nausea, delirium, disorientation and an elevated heart rate. A nurse provided care for them and they recovered. King’s-Edgehill School has a zero-tolerance policy on drugs, meaning students caught consuming or distributing drugs are expelled. So Seagram enforced the policy. However, he has since reversed the decision saying he worried the threat of expulsion would discourage students from coming forward for help, even if someone was in medical distress due to drug consumption.

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