Weekly Wrap: December 2, 2021

Published
02 December 2021

The information in the Weekly Wrap is aggregated from other news sources to provide you with news that is relevant to the education sector across Australia and worldwide. Each paragraph is a summary of the subject matter covered in the particular news article. The information does not necessarily reflect the views of CompliSpace.


 

AUSTRALIA

 

Deal to protect LGBTQI students sets up vote on religious freedom

The Age reports that a deal on the treatment of gay and lesbian school students could clear the way for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to get his Religious Discrimination Act through the House of Representatives this week, overcoming Labor objections to his signature bill. The deal has gained support from some Liberal MPs to vote for the Religious Discrimination Act if it is put to a vote in the lower house, despite earlier reservations about the impact of the draft law on the LGBTQI community. If they back the religious freedom bill, Mr Morrison and his senior colleagues appear willing to remove a highly contested section of the Sex Discrimination Act that gives religious schools the authority to expel or suspend students because of their sexuality. But the offer may not be enough to guarantee the numbers in the lower house for the Religious Discrimination Act, with three moderate Liberal MPs said to be holding out against rushing the law this week while it is meant to be reviewed by an inquiry over summer.

 

Religion bill ‘a threat to jobs of IVF parents’

According to an article in The Australian, religious discrimination laws will allow women who need IVF or surrogacy to be refused employment or harassed in their jobs by religious bodies, including the Catholic Church, which oppose such medical procedures, lawyers say. According to leading surrogacy and fertility lawyer Stephen Page, women who have survived cancer, or have been born without a uterus, or have some other infertility issue, will find themselves victimised again just because they want to become parents, he said. Such employees are protected by the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth). It is unlawful to discriminate against them in hiring them or once they are in the job. There are no exceptions to the rule, but the proposed legislation would change that, according to Mr Page. The Fertility Society of Australia and New Zealand estimates that one in six couples suffers from infertility. A spokesperson for Attorney-General Michaelia Cash said that as with all claims of discrimination each case would turn on its individual circumstances.

 

Australian school kids say ADHD is severely misunderstood and it's affecting their education

ABC News reports that, despite ADHD affecting one in 20 Australian children, a study conducted by ADHD Australia this year of more than a thousand teachers found 55 per cent of teachers employed in schools did not have adequate training on managing ADHD in the classroom. ADHD Australia ambassador Ceri Sandford is a former teacher who speaks with personal experience of ADHD, who says what children with ADHD need most from their teachers is compassion. This includes having conversations to determine how they can best support their learning experiences, such as by identifying and reducing distracting stimuli. Chair of ADHD Australia, Professor Michael Kohn says disciplining children with ADHD for acting out-of-step with the class can lead to deep issues with self-esteem and increase disengagement. He says it's up to parents and teachers of children with ADHD to instead build them up. "Talk to them and make them aware that they're not dumb, they just have a different mindset," he said.

 

Teacher accreditation reform

According to NESA, the Teacher Accreditation Act 2004 (NSW) has been amended in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The changes ensure child protection is at the forefront of decision making in teacher regulation. They also bring NSW in line with the national framework for child safety. The introduction of an assessment of suitability to teach for initial and ongoing accreditation is one of the key new requirements that addresses the recommendations from the Royal Commission. This means that all Australian teacher regulatory authorities will apply a consistent approach to child safety. A change to the decision-making structure regarding teacher accreditation decisions will mean that NESA will be making decisions about teacher accreditation at all levels. Existing Teacher Accreditation Authorities will continue to make these decisions while NESA develops new processes in consultation with key stakeholders. NESA will engage in stakeholder consultation while developing the new requirements throughout 2022. They will also provide teachers, principals, schools and sector authorities with relevant information and support before the changes come into effect.

 

NSW teachers plan to defy order to scrap next week’s strike

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the NSW Teachers Federation will defy an order from the Industrial Relations Commission to scrap next week’s strike. The Department of Education on Monday succeeded in asking the Commission to order the Federation to cancel the strike, after the Federation’s State Council voted at the weekend to strike and hold a rally outside Parliament on 7th December for pay rises and more planning time. However, Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos said the strike would proceed, with negotiations over a new enterprise agreement currently at a stalemate. The Federation is calling for a pay rise of 5 per cent a year with an extra 2.5 per cent to recognise extra experience, as well as two more hours of planning time a week. However, the Department of Education is curtailed by the Government’s public sector wage cap, introduced amid strikes in 2011, which limits increases to 2.5 per cent a year. The policy only allows the cap to be exceeded if productivity gains are negotiated. The department can seek to have the federation fined if it contravenes the order.

 

School formals open to all HSC students

According to the NSW Department of Education, all NSW Year 12 students will be able to attend their end-of-year school celebration following a year of disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Health Minister Brad Hazzard recently granted an exemption to enable all HSC students to attend their school’s Year 12 formal, dinner, or graduation, regardless of their vaccination status. Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell said the exemption gave all Year 12 students an opportunity to celebrate with their friends after their exams. The exemption means Year 12 students who have not been vaccinated for COVID-19 will be able to celebrate with the rest of their cohort, if they abide by the public health requirements of the venue they’re attending. The HSC written exams end on 3 December, with students set to receive their ATAR on 20 January and results on 24 January.

 

Education Department fined $200,000 over safety breaches in boy’s death

The Age reports that Victoria’s Department of Education and Training has been fined $200,000, with a conviction, for safety breaches at a school where a seven-year-old boy suffered a fatal head injury, in lapses a judge said were “absolutely fraught with danger”. Jovan Talwar hit his head on the ground when his wheelchair rolled down a shoddy ramp at Warringa Park School in Hoppers Crossing, a school for students with disabilities, on November 26, 2018. His condition deteriorated over following days, and he later died in hospital. The Department pleaded guilty to two charges of failing to ensure, as far as was reasonably practicable, that people other than employees were not exposed to risks to their health or safety. In its guilty plea, the Department admitted failing to maintain the ramp or have it assessed over the decade before Jovan’s death. It also failed to properly instruct and train staff over the supervision Jovan needed.

 

Victorian Government sued by five Jewish students for anti-Semitic bullying

Sky News reports the Victorian government is being sued by five Jewish students who claim they endured years of anti-Semitic bullying at Brighton Secondary College in south-east Melbourne. Sky News Australia can reveal that the state government, school principal and two teachers face a Federal Court hearing in proceedings for breaching of the Racial Discrimination Act and negligence. The boys have accused the school of turning a blind eye to abuse and for violating human rights by creating a “prison culture” on the College’s grounds. Lawyers for the Victorian Government and school staff deny the allegations and have declined to comment.

 

Queensland teachers next for Covid-19 vaccine mandate

The Australian reports that Queensland’s 110,000 teachers will face mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations before school returns next year under new public health orders expected to be drawn up within weeks. Education Minister Grace Grace confirmed on Monday that the mandate being considered would extend to private schools with an announcement to be made “very soon”. “It will cover the government and the non-government (education) sector,” she said. Ms Grace was unsure how many education staff were yet to be vaccinated because the government had not asked its staff but guessed it was a “very small percentage.” Queensland is one of only two jurisdictions yet ­to extend the vaccination mandate to the education sector, alongside Liberal-led Tasmania. Teachers in NSW were ­required to have received both doses of the vaccine by November 9, while those in Victoria and the ACT had to be fully vaccinated by Monday.

 

WA teachers seek pay rise amid shortages, with union threatening industrial action

PerthNow reports that Western Australia’s teachers union has threatened industrial action unless the state government ends its public sector wage freeze to address staff shortages. Teachers and other public servants have had annual salary increases capped at $1000 for the past four years as part of the McGowan government’s budget repair efforts. But the Labor government is under growing pressure to axe the cap after banking a whopping $5.6 billion surplus last financial year. The wage freeze is under review with a decision expected early next year. Attracting and retaining teachers has been made more difficult by WA’s border closures and the introduction of COVID-19 vaccine mandates. State School Teachers Union of WA president Pat Byrne said “It can already be difficult to attract and retain teachers in regional and remote areas, and the worsening teacher shortage is putting the education of our children at risk.” Education Minister Sue Ellery said the government employs a range of attraction and retention strategies including a relief pool to fill urgent vacancies around the state.

 

Tasmania pays out record $1.4 million to survivor of child abuse from teacher Anthony LeClerc

ABC News reports that the Tasmanian government has settled a group of six historical child sexual abuse cases, with one of the survivors receiving what is thought to be the state's largest child abuse settlement to date, of $1.4 million. The state government will pay a combined $5.3 million to six survivors of paedophile teacher Anthony LeClerc. LeClerc was jailed in 2015 for molesting 14 children between 1973 and 1983. He was transferred between four schools in Tasmania's north-west when complaints were made about him. A recent inquiry found the Tasmanian Education Department spent decades shielding child sexual abusers and protecting itself from reputational risk. Angela Sdrinis, director of Angela Sdrinis Legal said the first clients contacted her firm while LeClerc's criminal case was before the Supreme Court in Hobart, but they had to wait until 2018 when the time limit for taking civil claims for sexual abuse to court was abolished. Support organisation Beyond Abuse says it was preparing for a "big influx" of people coming forward seeking support over the next 12-18 months and beyond.

 

INTERNATIONAL

 

Three students shot dead, 8 people wounded at Michigan high school; 15-year-old arrested (United States of America)

Reuters reports that a 15-year-old boy opened fire in a Michigan high school on Tuesday with a semi-automatic pistol his father had purchased days earlier, killing three fellow students and wounding eight other people before he was arrested, authorities said. Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard told a news briefing hours after the rampage at Oxford High School that investigators were at a loss to explain what might have precipitated the act of violence. The suspect, disarmed and taken into custody by sheriff's deputies minutes after the shooting began, has declined to speak with investigators after his parents retained a lawyer and denied authorities permission to interview their son, Bouchard said. Police will ultimately turn over the findings of their investigation to prosecutors, who would decide what charges to bring and whether the suspect would be charged as an adult or a juvenile, the sheriff said. For now, the 15-year-old suspect, whose name was withheld by authorities because he is a minor, was being detained in a special cell under suicide watch at a juvenile detention center, Oakland County Executive David Coulter said.

 

Students who launched pro-slavery petition at Missouri high school sue after suspensions, expulsion (United States of America)

PBS News reports that a little more than two months after students circulated a petition calling for a return to slavery at a Missouri high school, a lawsuit has been filed against the Park Hill School District, the board of education and the superintendent on behalf of the students who were disciplined for commenting on the petition. According to the 28-page federal lawsuit filed on Nov. 12, one student was expelled from the school and three others were suspended. The parents of the students involved are now suing, claiming the district violated their “constitutional rights to freedom of speech under the First Amendment and to Due Process and Equal Protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.” The suit alleges that the school environment was “infused with frequent, casual use of racial and ethnic epithets and slurs,” and that teachers and school administrators tolerated such language and behavior. Park Hill School District spokesperson Nicole Kirby said after the lawsuit was filed that the district “took prompt, decisive action to enforce our policies prohibiting discrimination, harassment and uncivil behavior.” She said the district could comment further when the litigation heads to court.

 

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