December 06: School Governance Weekly Wrap

AUSTRALIA

Sexting Law Changes in New South Wales to Protect Consenting Teens from Criminal Convictions

According to ABC News, sexting among teens could be considered legal in some cases under new laws aimed to reduce the risk of consenting children being convicted of possessing child pornography. The changes in laws, which came into effect in the last week, provide a legal exception for children under 18 taking, sharing or keeping nude photographs of themselves and others, particularly if the sexting is consensual. The changes will reduce the risk that children engaging in “normal sexual development and experimentation among teenagers” becomes criminalised, the Government said. The laws also provide a “similar age” defence for consensual sex between children where both are at least 14 years old, and when the age gap between them is less than two years. The new laws are among a raft of changes introduced across the state in the wake of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

School Anti-Violence Measures Strengthened in Western Australia

According to a WA Media Release, the Education Minister has released a new plan to address violence in schools and provide greater clarity for teachers and other school staff on their rights and responsibilities. Under the ‘Let’s take a stand together’ action plan, new tactics to address violent behaviour by WA school students and better support staff to manage incidents will roll out over the next three years. The plan follows consultation with stakeholders from across the community about effective ways to bring about change. It includes 10 actions for schools, families and communities to work together to address the complex societal issue. According to The Age, WA public students who instigate or film violence will be automatically suspended. Students who attack teachers will also face mandatory expulsion. According to Perth Now, to ensure the safety of staff and students, extremely or persistently violent students will be placed in alternative programs that will include therapeutic interventions to address behaviour. Every public school will also be required to introduce a “good standing” program, under which students who fight and lose standing will be banned from attending events like school dances and sports carnivals. Students can earn their standing back through good behaviour.

‘We’ll be voting soon’: Students Take on PM Over Climate Change

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, more than 200 Canberra children skipped class and another 100 parents and supporters rallied in the rain on Wednesday morning in front of Parliament House to call for government action on climate change. The strike was part of a nationwide protest on global warming this week. Thousands of students from more than 200 schools in towns and cities were expected to skip class to put pressure on politicians later in the week. The strike was organised by School Strike 4 Action, a Victoria-based student activist group that’s spread across Australia. The movement was inspired by a 15-year-old Swedish school girl Greta Thunberg who skipped school to camp outside Sweden’s parliament last month. During question time in parliament on Monday Prime Minister Scott Morrison condemned the children who were planning to miss class and said there should be less activism in schools. Students have called this approach “ridiculous” and told the Prime Minister that they “will be voting soon”.

NSW Could Pilot ‘Morning and Afternoon Schools’

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the state’s Education Minister Rob Stokes says that separate morning and afternoon schools could soon be trialled in NSW to reduce traffic peaks and address the enrolment boom, “Effectively having double schools by having morning and afternoon schools is one option, it’s already being done in some countries.” Mr Stokes also said that all schools, including private schools, are public buildings and should be opened up to the community. He envisioned a future where public, Catholic and private schools and the local community all share libraries and sports fields that are larger than the separate resources and able to operate more efficiently. Mr Stokes said the typical fenced-off public school, with buildings wrapped around a concrete play area and an oval off to the side, eventually has to go. The Arup report released this week describes the school environment as an important “third educator” and looks at the need for new schools to be highly flexible to reflect the rapidly changing nature of education and work. It addresses a number of the major problems that exist in NSW, including a rapid growth in the number of students and challenges around incorporating new technology and digital teaching methods into schools that are still operating with ageing internet infrastructure and devices.

Malka Leifer’s Team Rallies to Prevent Extradition to Australia over Child Sex Assault Charges

According to ABC News, supporters of an orthodox Jewish school principal accused of sexually assaulting her students have funded a public relations and legal campaign to prevent her being extradited from Israel to face trial in Australia. The former principal of the Adass Jewish school in Melbourne, Malka Leifer, is fighting attempts to bring her back to Australia to face 74 counts of sexual assault. She left Melbourne 10 years ago when the allegations against her surfaced and this week was granted leave not to attend her extradition hearing in Jerusalem on mental health grounds. There has been intense resistance to the extradition and hostility towards Ms Leifer’s alleged victims from sections of the orthodox Jewish community in both Israel and Australia.

Preparation Disaster and Emergency Response

A Queensland Department of Education media release has announced that, in response to the current bushfires in Queensland, disasters and emergencies happen more frequently than schools would like. It is important to plan and prepare for these and focus on the actions that can be taken that will ensure the safety of students and staff. The Department has specific resources for schools in planning disaster and emergency response plans.

INTERNATIONAL

Thousands Raised for Syrian Refugee ‘Waterboarded’ at UK School

According to SBS News, more than $157,000 has been raised for a Syrian refugee who was ‘waterboarded’ by a bully at a UK school. Video of the incident went viral on Tuesday, with footage showing 15-year-old Jamal being taunted by another student before he is wrestled to the ground. The aggressor then grabs Jamal’s neck and pours a bottle of water over his face. “I’ll drown you,” the aggressor is heard saying. UK media reports that Jamal and his family fled the city of Homs in Syria, which was the location of a three-year siege by the Syrian military from 2011 to 2014. Police said that they were investigating the incident as “a racially-aggravated assault” and had questioned a 16-year-old boy over the footage. They said that the incident occurred on the playing fields of Almondbury Community School in Huddersfield in northern England last month. The refugee student has said he won’t return to the school. Yahoo 7 added “The same day the video went viral on social media of Jamal being attacked, his sister was also attacked. She had her headscarf ripped off in the playground. This is despite us complaining to the school about the abuse. She has also attempted suicide and tried to cut her wrists. The level of bullying got [to be] so much.”

Quebec Teen Drowned During School Swim and Nobody Noticed for 38 Minutes

According to CTV News, a Montreal teen who drowned during a high school gym class spent 38 minutes at the bottom of the pool without anyone noticing, a coroner’s investigation has found. Dr. Louis Normandin’s report into the death last February of Blessing Claude Moukoko reveals a troubling lack of supervision. Like many of the 19 Ecole Pere-Marquette students in the class, Moukoko, 14, was just learning to swim. He was taking part in his third swim class as part of a high school gym course. He was last seen struggling to do the crawl, and no one noticed the Grade 8 student’s absence when the class left the pool deck. The coroner described security video of the pool from that morning as unsettling. “People are walking around the pool deck, the water is calm, so calm in fact, they have the impression — the students in the second course — that they see a dummy in the bottom of the pool.”

Schools Can’t Be Substitute Parents, UK Ofsted Chief Warns

According to The Guardian, the UK chief inspector for schools warned this week that parents must not “abdicate their responsibility” by expecting schools to solve all the major problems children face. In a robust intervention attacking the increasing burdens placed on teachers, Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman said schools “cannot be a panacea” for all social ills and criticised some parents for neglecting some of the “most basic of parenting tasks”, such as toilet training. While teachers “can play a role” in educating children about the dangers of knife crime and obesity, primary responsibility for these complex problems lies elsewhere, she warned. When it comes to keeping to a healthy weight, she said, “schools cannot take over the role of health professionals – and above all parents”.

Alberta Teacher Fined $32K for Unprofessional Conduct

According to CBC News, an Alberta teacher has been ordered to pay $32,500 in fines and had her teachers’ association membership cancelled after being found guilty of eight charges of unprofessional conduct. Frieda Anne Mennes was found to have treated students differently based on their academic abilities and “retaliated” against parents who raised concerns about her behaviour in the classroom. The $32,500 cumulative fine in relation to the eight charges under the Teaching Profession Act is the largest ever issued, according to the teaching association.

Four Injured after Lightning Strike Hits Hamilton School

According to The NZ Herald, four people have been injured after lightning struck a rugby goalpost at a Hamilton school and jumped into neighbouring classrooms. It appeared that the lightning bolt struck a rugby goalpost before travelling along the ground, connecting with the fence of the school’s tennis court before hitting the classroom and striking the four teachers. A hospital spokeswoman said three of the teachers had been discharged, while one was still under observation.

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