Child Protection Policy

Brighton Grammar School is committed to fulfilling its duty of care to all students and specifically students under the age of 16 in relation to the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic), which was amended in 2014 to include offences of: (i) failing to disclose a sexual offence; (ii) grooming for sexual conduct; and (iii) failing to protect a child from sexual offence. This policy is underpinned by the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic).

Brighton Grammar School is fully committed to the protection of children and young people during all School activities and environments both within and outside of School hours.

Purpose
The purpose of this Policy is to provide clear guidelines to employees, contractors and other volunteers/visitors (‘individuals’) to the School regarding expectations when interacting with students and other children.

Brighton Grammar School is committed to fulfilling its duty of care to all students and specifically students under the age of 16 in relation to the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic), which was amended in 2014 to include offences of: (i) failing to disclose a sexual offence; (ii) grooming for sexual conduct; and (iii) failing to protect a child from sexual offence. This policy is underpinned by the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic).

Brighton Grammar School is fully committed to the protection of children and young people during all School activities and environments both within and outside of School hours. This Policy complies with:

  • The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children (2009); and
  • Ministerial Order 870: Child Safe Standards – Managing the Risk of Child Abuse in Schools.

Application
This Policy applies to employees, contractors and other visitors (‘individuals’) to the School and must be read in conjunction with the Brighton Grammar School Child Protection Code of Conduct.

Note: any reference to legislation in this policy includes a reference to the legislation as amended from time to time.

Principles
Through the application of this policy, the School aims to:

  • Ensure all reasonable steps are taken so that all students of the School are safe from abuse, including sexual abuse, and they feel safe at all times.
  • Ensure that cultural safety of the following groups is promoted and protected at all times:
    o Children of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background or heritage;
    o Children from culturally and/or linguistically diverse backgrounds; and
    o Children with a disability or special needs.
  • Enable School Council members, all persons in positions of authority, care or supervision, all employees of the School and where applicable, students of 18 years or over to understand their role and responsibility in protecting the safety and wellbeing of children and young people, particularly those under the age of 16, in accordance with the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic).
  • Ensure all members of the School community aged 18 and over understand their reporting obligations in accordance with the Crimes
    Amendment (Protection of Children) Act 2014 (Vic).
  • Provide clear guidelines to employees, volunteers, contractors and other visitors (‘individuals’) to the School regarding expectations
    when interacting with students and other children;

    • Ensure that all individuals at the School or working with students are aware of, understand and comply with the principals of the Child Safe Standards 

Note: Definition of a ‘Student’
For the purposes of this policy, a ‘Student of Brighton Grammar School’ shall be considered to be a current student of Brighton Grammar School until they withdraw from the School and are no longer enrolled or (in the case of Year 12 Students) the day after an individual’s final examination.

However it is also expected that employees, contractors or other visitors of Brighton Grammar School will not socialise or visit at home past students of the School who are younger than 18 years of age without the presence of a parent of the student.

Policy
This Policy requires individuals to be familiar with the requirements of State and Federal Legislation regarding the Protection of Children against all forms of abuse. It also requires individuals to demonstrate a duty of care to take all reasonable steps to prevent incidents which may expose a student or another child to harm (in accordance with Mandatory Reporting Policy).

The School recognises that children and students have a right to be treated with dignity and respect, free from emotional and physical danger, abuse (including sexual abuse) and neglect.

In addition, the Policy is intended to protect the reputation and wellbeing of supervising adults from allegations or misunderstandings. It applies to both appropriate workplace behaviour and behaviour expected when outside the workplace while in the employment of the School.

If further explanation of any of the instructions provided here is required, it should be sought from a Head of School, the Director of Human Resources or the Headmaster.

1.1 As an overarching principle, the Headmaster must be kept informed of any issue relating to potential or actual risk to the protection of students and children (in circumstances where it impacts upon the School) and / or reputational risk to supervising adults or the School.

1.2 Cultural Protection and Awareness
Brighton Grammar School is committed to the provision of culturally appropriate services and protection of the cultural safety of its students.
Such groups include but are not limited to:

  • Children of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background or heritage;
  • Children from culturally and/or linguistically diverse backgrounds; and
  • Children with a disability or special needs.

Through cultural awareness programs for students at all levels, the School will promote and protect the cultural safety of its students in a sensitive and caring manner. A register of cultural awareness programs (including disability awareness) will be monitored and reviewed annually to evaluate its effectiveness and appropriateness.

1.3 Responsibilities
The Headmaster will:

  • Ensure that all employees, contractors, volunteers, and students aged 18 and over, School Council members and the School parent community are aware of the Child Safe Standards and the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) and have access to a copy of this Policy;
  • Ensure that all adults within the School community are aware of their obligation to report to the police suspected sexual abuse of a child under 16 years; and
  • Provide support for staff in undertaking their responsibility in this area.

All employees will:

  • Be aware of the School’s Child Protection Policy (this policy) the related, Child Protection Code of Conduct and Mandatory Reporting
    Policy;
  • Report any reasonable belief of child abuse (including sexual abuse) to the police or fulfil their obligation as Mandatory Notifiers (if applicable); and
  • Provide an educational environment that is supportive of all children’s emotional, physical and cultural safety;
  • Ensure that Child Protection Education & Programs are accessible and understood by students of all ages, cultural background and abilities.

Parents/Caregivers, contractors, volunteers and students 18 and over will:

  • Be aware of the School’s Child Protection Policy (this policy), Child Protection Code of Conduct and the related Mandatory Reporting Policy; and
  • Understand their obligations to report reasonable belief of child sexual abuse to the police.

2. Protection of Children against Sexual Abuse: Specific Offences
2.1 Failure to Disclose
Reporting child sexual abuse is a community-wide responsibility. The Failure to disclose offence imposes a clear legal duty upon all adults aged 18 and over to report information about child sexual abuse to police.

Definition
Under section 327 of the Crimes Act, any person (including any staff member) of or over the age of 18 years who forms a reasonable belief that a sexual offence has been committed in Victoria by an adult against a child under 16 years of age must disclose that information to police, as soon as it is practicable to do so. Failure to disclose the information to police is a criminal offence, except in limited circumstances such as where the information has already been reported to DHHS Child Protection.

The offence applies to all adults in Victoria, not just professionals who work with children.

Forming a ‘Reasonable Belief’
A ‘reasonable belief’ or a ‘belief on reasonable grounds’ is not the same as having proof but is more than mere rumour or speculation. A ‘reasonable belief’ is formed if a reasonable person in the same position would have formed the belief on the same grounds. For example, a ‘reasonable belief’ might be formed if:

  • a child states that they have been sexually abused;
  • a child states that they know someone who has been sexually abused (sometimes the child may be talking about themselves);
  • someone who knows a child states that the child has been sexually abused;
  • professional observations of the child’s behaviour or development leads a professional to form a belief that the child has been sexually abused or is likely to be abused; and
  • signs of abuse lead to a belief that the child has been sexually abused.

Procedure
Any adult aged 18 or over who forms a reasonable belief that a sexual offence has been committed in Victoria by an adult against a child under 16 must report that information to Victoria Police by dialling 000 (or otherwise to a Member of the police force of Victoria).

An adult will not be guilty of an offence if they do not report in the following circumstances:

  • The victim is 16 years of age or older and does not have an intellectual disability that limits his/her capacity to make an informed decision; and he/she does not want the information reported to the police.
  • The victim has disclosed the information in confidence in the course of a therapeutic relationship with you as a registered medical practitioner or counsellor.
  • The victim turned 16 years of age before 27 October 2014.

Reasonable excuses for failing to comply with the requirement include:

  • a reasonable belief that the information has already been reported to police or Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Child Protection disclosing all of the information.
  • a reasonable fear that the disclosure will place someone (other than the alleged perpetrator) at risk of harm.

 

Mandatory reporting involves informing the Department of Health and Human Services of conduct involving a child 17 years and under that would constitute abuse (physical, emotional or sexual), neglect or exploitation. In the case of students who are over the age of 18, the required contact point will be Police.

The protection of children is regulated by the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005. Section 182 specifies that a person registered under the Education Training and Reform Act 2006 or who has been granted permission to teach under that act is designated as a mandatory reporter[1].

As such, it is an offence on behalf of an individual teacher and / or the School to fail to notify the Department of Health and Human Services of concerns if they have formed the belief on reasonable grounds that:

  • A child has suffered or is likely to suffer, significant harm as a result of physical injury and the child’s parents have not protected, or are unlikely to protect, the child from harm of that type;
  • A child has suffered, or is likely to suffer, significant hardship as a result of sexual abuse and the child’s parents have not protected, or are unlikely to protect the child from harm of that type.

If the individual teacher or the School notifies DHHS in good faith, based on having reasonable grounds for forming the view that the child is at risk, it will not be considered unprofessional conduct by the teacher or the School.

In every case, where it may be necessary to report a matter to DHHS or the Police, the Headmaster must also be notified as a matter of urgency; he will assist the teacher or other employee in making the report and ensure that they are provided with support.

2.2 Grooming
Section 49B of the Crimes Act relates to the offence of “Grooming for sexual conduct with a child under the age of 16 years.” The offence targets predatory conduct designed to facilitate later sexual activity. The offence can be committed by any person aged 18 years or over.

Definition
The offence of grooming concerns predatory conduct undertaken to prepare a child for sexual activity at a later time. The offence applies where an adult communicates, by words or conduct, with a child under the age of 16 years or with a person who has care, supervision or authority for the child with the intention of facilitating the child’s engagement in or involvement in sexual conduct, whether with the groomer or another adult.

Grooming does not necessarily involve any sexual activity or even discussion of sexual activity – for example, it may only involve establishing a relationship with the child, parent or carer for the purpose of facilitating sexual activity at a later time.

The sexual conduct must constitute an indictable sexual offence. This includes offences such as sexual penetration of a child, indecent assault and indecent act in the presence of a child. It does not include summary offences, such as indecent behaviour in public.

Procedure
Should any member of the School community aged 18 and over become aware of grooming behaviour by a person aged 18 years or over, they should notify the police and/or the Headmaster immediately.

It is the responsibility of the Headmaster and/or others associated with the School with authority or responsibility, to take action upon becoming aware of grooming behaviour to protect (so as to reduce or remove a substantial risk) in accordance with the ‘failure to protect’ offence (see below).

 2.3 Failure to Protect Offence
Section 49C of the Crimes Act states that it is a criminal offence in Victoria for a person in authority to fail to protect a child under the age of 16 from criminal sexual abuse. This applies where there is substantial risk that a child under the care, supervision or authority of an organisation including schools) will become a victim of a sexual offence by an adult associated with the School. The person in a position of authority may be guilty of an offence if they know of the risk of abuse and have the power or responsibility to reduce or remove the risk, but negligently fail to do so.

Definition
If a person associated with the School who by reason of their position has the power or responsibility to reduce or remove a substantial risk that a child will become a victim of a sexual offence committed by an adult associated with the School, they must not negligently fail to reduce or remove the risk. That is, as soon as a person in authority becomes aware of a risk of child sexual abuse, they will be under a duty to take steps to remove or reduce that risk.

A person who has the power or responsibility to reduce or remove a risk will include the Headmaster, School Council members and senior staff, as well as teachers by virtue of their responsibilities. For the avoidance of doubt, any member of staff or person associated with the School who knows of a substantial risk that a child will become a victim of a sexual offence should notify the Headmaster as soon as is reasonably practicable.

Procedure
When aware of a substantial risk of criminal sexual abuse to a child in the School from an adult aged 18 or over associated with the School, the Headmaster will act to reduce or remove the risk. The person will be removed from any child-related role pending an investigation. 

Work Experience / Work Place Learning
In accordance with Standard 6 of the Child Safety Standards (Ministerial Order 870), the School is required to develop, implement, monitor and evaluate risk management strategies to ensure child safety in School environments.

The definition of ‘school environment’ in Ministerial Order 870 extends to any physical or virtual place made available or authorised by the School for use by a child during or outside school hours. This includes workplace learning environments where students undertake work experience, structured workplace learning or school community work (volunteering) and School Based Apprenticeships.

Brighton Grammar School will therefore undertake the following measures prior to students undertaking workplace learning to ensure their safety will not be compromised:

1. Identify child safety risks in workplace learning environments.
2. Identify any existing risk mitigation measures or controls.
3. Assess and rate the child safety risks given the existing controls in place, taking into account the likelihood of risk, and the likely consequence of the risk.
4. If the risk rating is more than the ‘acceptable level’, identify further risk management strategies through additional treatments or other prevention, detection or mitigation strategies and then re-assess the risk.
A copy of the School’s Child Protection Policy and the Victorian governments Fact Sheet for Employers: Child Safe Standards and Workplace Learning will be given to all businesses in which Brighton Grammar School students are engaged in workplace learning and all sites will be visited prior to or during the placement by the relevant Head of House or the School’s Careers Counsellor.

Further to the above, all work experience placements and associated documentation will be arranged in accordance with Ministerial Order 382 – Work Experience Arrangements.

Other Measures

  • Observation panels to be installed in all staff offices and classrooms to allow easy and direct observation by staff or senior students in the course of their routine activities;
  • Observation panels in offices and classrooms to remain unobscured by posters or art work;
  • All individuals are to be provided with training in defining, understanding and responding to sexual abuse;
  • Students at all levels to be engaged in resilience building and responsible bystander programs;
  • Mentoring program introduced to provide new staff with guidance during the first 6 months of employment;
  • All Child Protection and associated policies to be communicated to staff not less than bi-annually.

Record Keeping and Independent Verification
A register of all scheduled Child Protection Programs will be prepared annually for all students, staff, parents, contractors and volunteers. On delivery of each program, the register is to be updated to show the action completion date with verified sign-off by the applicable Head of School or Senior Executive Member.

The School’s Child Safety Officer will conduct a sample audit annually to ensure that all aspects of this policy are being adhered to across all campuses and all target groups in the School Community. The audit report will be presented to the Governance and Risk Committee on an annual basis.

Breach
Breach of this Policy and/or the Child Protection Code of Conduct shall be considered either misconduct or serious misconduct (depending on the circumstances) and may result in Disciplinary action (see Disciplinary Policy for further definitions) which may lead to termination of employment and / or reporting to relevant Authorities.

Related Policies
Child Protection Code of Conduct
Mandatory Reporting Policy
Critical Incident Management Policy
Disciplinary Policy
Ethics & Disclosure Policy

Resources
Department of Justice: Betrayal of Trust Factsheet: The new ‘failure to disclose’ offence.
Department of Justice: Betrayal of Trust Factsheet: The new ‘grooming’ offence.
Department of Justice: Betrayal of Trust Factsheet: The new ‘failure to protect’ offence.
VRQA Newsletter ‘New obligations to help protect children: Betrayal of Trust implementation’ (Edition 41).

This Policy is a controlled document. Any printing of this document is uncontrolled. Please refer to the school portal for the latest version of this policy
Policy Version number  2
BGS Compliance Framework Risk Area Student Welfare
Policy Owner Headmaster
Policy reviewed and approved by Risk and Governance Committee
Approval Date  
Next Review Date May 2022

 

[1] Found at www.vit.vic.edu.au