The Queensland Anti-Cyberbullying Taskforce was established in February 2018 and the Taskforce released its report in October 2018 (Report). The Report made 29 recommendations to address cyberbullying through a community-wide approach, with actions focused on parents and carers, the community, schools and government.
In April 2019 a progress report was released by the Queensland Government: Implementing the Queensland Anti-Cyberbullying Taskforce Report – April 2019 progress report (Progress Report). The Progress Report is an account of the progress being made on the implementation of the Taskforce’s recommendations by the Government and other parties.
The Role of Schools
Schools have a responsibility in implementing the Taskforce’s recommendations and many of the recommendations refer to schools taking action to help combat cyberbullying. In the Progress Report the Government reports that ‘‘consultation has commenced with non-state sector peak bodies’’ regarding the implementation of some recommendations. Those peak bodies include Independent Schools Queensland and the QCEC. At the time of publication, School Governance does not know how the ISQ and QCEC have responded to the Taskforce and/or the recommendations.
In an April media statement the Government said that ‘‘all schools can expect a roll-out of on-line resources for them to combat the menace’’ (cyberbullying). In particular, the Government referred to a new Student Code of Conduct that requires state schools to have an evidence-based whole school program to respond to cyberbullying (Recommendation 11). The Progress Report states that the Code of Conduct will be publicly available so that non-state schools ‘‘can adopt or adapt for their local contexts’’.
Despite the author’s best online researching efforts, the new Code of Conduct does not appear to be publicly available. However, the new procedure for the safety and wellbeing of students residing at a state school operated residential boarding facility (Boarding Procedure) (Recommendation 19), which takes effect in July, is available. The Boarding Procedure does not apply to non-state schools and the Government will consider whether legislative amendments are needed to require non-state schools to comply with specific procedures about cyberbullying.
In addition to the Code of Conduct and the Boarding Procedure, the Government has indicated that other resources will be publicly available although it is unclear what those resources are and when they will be available.
What Can Non-state Schools Do Now?
All schools can access the Progress Report and identify the recommendations that apply to them. Any school can be proactive and take steps to implement policies and procedures to comply with the recommendations. Existing Government resources (where available) could be used to develop those policies and procedures and update existing ones. The Government also directs schools to the ‘Bullying. No Way!’ website as a reference guide to help them design and implement programs that they consider will work best in their schools.
However, while non-state schools can review the recommendations in the Report and the Government’s responses in the Progress Report, it is unclear:
- how to access existing Government anti-cyberbullying resources
- how many Government anti-cyberbullying resources are available and relevant to non-state schools
- the extent of consultation occurring between the ISQ and QCEC and the Taskforce and the ISQ/QCEC and non-state schools.
The lack of clarity on resources and consultation outcomes means that non-state schools may be acting in an information vacuum if they independently respond to the recommendations now. Consequently, non-state schools may want to wait before responding to the recommendations. In the meantime, their existing student duty of care policies addressing bullying and/or cyberbullying will help to protect students.
Will Registration Requirements Reflect the Recommendations?
The Non-State Schools Accreditation Board (NSSAB) last updated the Review Program Guidelines in May 2018. It is unclear if the Guidelines will be updated to reflect the recommendations or information in the Progress Report.