Student Protection

Version Number

6.4

Implementation Date

4/02/2014

Scope

All Education Queensland employees.

Purpose

​Outlines responsibilities and commitment of Education Queensland to providing a safe, supportive and disciplined learning environment, and preventing and responding to harm or risk of harm for all students. Three categories of harm are addressed: harm caused by another student; harm caused by someone outside the state education institution environment; and student self-harm.​

Overview

Education Queensland is committed to providing safe, supportive and disciplined learning environments, to preventing reasonably foreseeable harm to students and to responding when an Education Queensland employee or an employee of a state school, in the course of their employment, reasonably suspects harm or risk of harm to students.

Education Queensland will not condone behaviours (e.g. a child witnessing domestic or family violence) or cultural customs (e.g. caning children or female genital mutilation) that fall into the definition of harm.

Harm, to a student, is any detrimental effect of a significant nature on a student’s physical, psychological or emotional wellbeing. This could also include harm to an unborn child. Harm can be caused by physical abuse, sexual abuse or exploitation, psychological or emotional abuse, or neglect.

It is mandatory under the Education (General Provisions) Act 2006 for school staff members
to immediately make a written report  when they become aware or reasonably suspect the sexual abuse or likely sexual abuse of a student under 18 years. Likely is interpreted in the legislation as meaning, that unless someone intervenes, it is more probable than not that the student will be sexually abused.

This procedure applies to all Education Queensland employees including school staff members, regional and central office personnel. It also includes other employees of state schools (e.g. Youth Support Coordinators, School-Based Youth Health Nurses and Chaplains), volunteers and on-going visitors that have regular contact with students. Relevant contexts include escorting students on camps, excursions educational programs external to a school including a TAFE college and tours within or outside Australia.

This procedure should be read in conjunction with the Code of Conduct for the Queensland Public Service, the department’s Code of Conduct Standard of Practice, the Code of School Behaviour, or where an employing agency has a Memorandum of Understanding or contractual arrangement with the department, these documents should also be considered.

This procedure outlines the responsibilities and processes for responding to:

  • harm caused by another student
  • harm caused by a person not employed by the department, including volunteers and school visitors
  • student self-harm.

Harm including sexual misconduct involving employees is managed in accordance with Allegations against employees in the area of student protection.

Employees (including principals) are not required to investigate any aspect of a suspicion of harm or risk of harm before making a report. An investigation, if it takes place, will only be as part of an internal process to make a school disciplinary absence decision or for the purpose of imposing public service discipline.

Every employee, student, parent or member of the public has the right to make a voluntary report directly to the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services (Child Safety) or Queensland Police Service (QPS), or to make a report of suspected official misconduct directly to the Crime and Misconduct Commission.

Responsibilities

Principals:

Preventative measures

Supportive measures

Harm caused by another student (see Flowchart 1

  • implement strategies, notify parents and manage a student’s behaviour in accordance with the school’s Responsible Behaviour Plan when it is reasonable to suspect a student has been harmed or placed at risk of harm through the actions of another student
  • report an act of harm that constitutes a criminal offence, and occurs on school premises, using the OneSchool Student Protection Concern module, or alternatively, an SP-4: Report of Suspected Harm or Risk of Harm If the act of harm is an assault (non-sexual in nature) where the student suffers no physical injury, discretion should be exercised so that a report to QPS is made only after consultation with the student and parents confirming that police action is warranted
  • in cases of emergency, contact QPS immediately by telephone and follow up by completing the OneSchool Student Protection Concern module, or alternatively, with a SP-4: Report of Suspected Harm or Risk of Harm as a matter of urgency
  • advise the student subject to the harm or his/her parents of their right to also report the act of harm directly to QPS in instances where it constitutes a criminal offence.

Harm caused by a person not employed by the department, including volunteers and school visitors (see Flowchart 2

  • upon receiving a written report from a staff member who becomes aware or reasonably suspects the sexual abuse or the likely sexual abuse of a student, or upon receiving any other information capable of satisfying the principal that grounds exist to reasonably suspect a student has been harmed or is at risk of harm, or an unborn child may be at risk of harm, as a matter of urgency, complete the OneSchool Student Protection Concern module, or alternatively, forward a completed SP-4: Report of Suspected Harm or Risk of Harm to QPS and/or Child Safety and regional office via facsimile or email (if sent by email, ensure a copy of the sent email and a hard copy of the signed report are retained at the school).  
  • where a parent is the alleged perpetrator of harm or suspected harm do not inform the parent of the allegation of harm or the report. If the parent is not the alleged perpetrator, then they should be informed of the allegation of harm (not the making of report) if to do so is consistent with s.426 of the EGPA 
  • registered nurses employed by DETE should make child protection reports in accordance with their legal obligations under the Public Health Act 2005 and the Education (General Provision) Act 2006. Such reports may be sent directly by the registered nurse and do not need to be reviewed, counter-signed and forwarded by the principal
  • store reports and any associated notes in a secure location or in OneSchool (see Records Storage)  
  • with the exception of a report from a staff member who becomes aware or reasonably suspects the sexual abuse or likely sexual abuse of a student which must be forwarded to QPS and Child Safety, if  the principal is satisfied that grounds do not exist to reasonably suspect the student has been harmed or is at risk of harm, or an unborn child may be at risk of harm, the principal takes steps to monitor the student’s situation. This may include advising an employee who provided the information to report any further concerns to the principal. Document the decision and store the record in a secure location or in OneSchool (see Records Storage
  • contact the local SCAN team representative (Senior Guidance Officer) if it is considered a case warrants referral to an Information Coordination Meeting (ICM) or SCAN team meeting (ICM and SCAN team meetings provide the opportunity for a multiagency case discussion and response where this is appropriate – for further information see ICM and SCAN Team System Manual).

Student self-harm  (see Flowchart 3

  • consider appropriate responses to support the student and to support any other student or employee who may be affected by an incident of self-harm
  • consult with qualified staff such as the Guidance Officer or School-Based Youth Health Nurse to ensure ongoing safety of the student 
  • upon receiving information or advice from any source capable of satisfying  the principal that grounds exist to reasonably suspect a student is causing self-harm and the parent does not appear to be acting protectively, complete the OneSchool Student Protection Concern module, or alternatively, complete and sign a SP-4: Report of Suspected Harm or Risk of Harm and send the report to Child Safety and regional office via facsimile or email (if sent by email, ensure a copy of the sent email and a hard copy of the signed report are retained at the school). 

School staff members and other school based employees:

  • complete appropriate Student Protection training (refer to Student Protection Training Fact Sheet) and ensure Student Protection Training certificate is signed by the principal (retain a copy of signed certificate for your records) and participate in annual training update of the student protection procedure
  • report all suspicions of student harm or risk of harm, or an unborn child at risk of harm, to the principal to determine whether a Report of Suspected Harm or Risk of Harm should be made, that is: 
    • harm or risk of harm from another student (see Flowchart 1
    • harm or risk of harm caused by a person not employed by the department, including volunteers and school visitors (see Flowchart 2
    • student self-harm (see Flowchart 3
  • when reporting the suspected sexual abuse or likely sexual abuse of a student to the principal, or when requested by the principal, complete the OneSchool Student Protection Concern module, or alternatively, complete and sign an SP-4: Report of Suspected Harm or Risk of Harm as a matter of urgency and provide the report to the principal to be counter-signed and forwarded to QPS and/or Child Safety and regional office.
  • only inform a parent of the allegation of harm or suspected harm with the agreement of the principal (it may be that a parent is the alleged perpetrator of harm and such a report would be inconsistent with the best interests of the child)
  • registered nurses employed by DETE should make child protection reports in accordance with their legal obligations under  the Public Health Act 2005 and the Education (General Provision) Act 2006. Such reports may be sent directly by the registered nurse and do not need to be reviewed, counter-signed and forwarded by the principal
  • in cases where the employing agency has a Memorandum of Understanding or contractual arrangement with the department, report all suspicions of student harm or risk of harm, or an unborn child at risk of harm, in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding, keep appropriate records, and abide by confidentiality requirements
  • document suspicions and/or incidents of harm and provide all records and copies of SP-4: Report of Suspected Harm or Risk of Harm to the principal for storage in a secure location or in OneSchool
  • consult with qualified staff such as the Guidance Officer or School Based Youth Health Nurse as required
  • monitor and support any student subjected to or at risk of harm from any source, as appropriate.

Guidance Officers:

  • abide by all staff member responsibilities outlined in this procedure
  • report all suspicions of student harm or risk of harm, or an unborn child at risk of harm, to the principal as disclosed during conversations with students consistent with your ethical and legal obligations.
  • may assist staff members to complete the OneSchool Student Protection Concern module or SP-4: Report of Suspected Harm or Risk of Harm forms if required.

Regional Directors:

  • if requested, support schools in management of complex reports of harm and risk of harm that require urgent intervention, and escalate matters with senior officers of  QPS and/or Child Safety if necessary 
  • manage human resources so that DETE has an authorised representative at every ICM and SCAN team meeting.

Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) team representatives:

  • through an Instrument of Authorisation are authorised by the Director-General to act in accordance with s.159L of the Child Protection Act 1999 in exercising the responsibilities of a member of SCAN
  • refer cases of harm to an ICM or SCAN team meeting subject to the respective referral criteria (see ICM and SCAN Team System Manual)
  • collect relevant information from school personnel to contribute to case discussions at an ICM or SCAN team meeting, provide updated information for SCAN team case reviews and provide feedback, if necessary, to school principals and guidance officers following a case discussion at an ICM or SCAN team meeting.

Education Queensland Staff located in Central and Regional Offices:

  • who have regular contact with students complete either the online course or site-based Student Protection training when newly employed with the Department.
  • report all suspicions of harm, or risk of harm directly to the relevant principal to determine whether a Report of Suspected Harm or Risk of Harm should be made

Information Sharing:

Process

Unlawful sexual relationships between children under 16 years of age

There are laws governing sexual activity with and between young people. In Queensland, engaging in sexual conduct with a young person under the age of 16 years (Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld)  ss. 208(1), 215(1)) (under the age of 18 years, if the conduct involved is sodomy) is a criminal offence, irrespective of whether this contact is consensual or the persons involved are both under the age of 16. If a school staff member becomes aware or reasonably suspects that there has been sexual conduct involving a young person under the age of 16 years (or 18 years for sodomy), they are required to report this to the principal.

Where the sexual activity is apparently consensual and involves two young people under the age of 16 (or 18 years, in the case of sodomy), the principal should seek the consent of the student/s concerned to discuss the matter with their parents. If the principal is reasonably satisfied that the young person is unable to give consent (by reason of immaturity, disability or other circumstances) the principal may contact the student/s’ parents. Such actions should be documented. Parents may make a report to the police if they so wish. In relation to making contact with parents about unlawful sexual relationships between children under 16 years of age principals should ensure that contact is appropriate (i.e. consider if the student is an independent student or if they are potentially at risk of harm).

Where the sexual activity is apparently non-consensual and involves two young people under the age of 16 (or 18 years, in the case of sodomy), the principal should immediately refer the matter to QPS.

Where the sexual activity involves a person under the age of 16 (or 18 years for sodomy) and the other person involved is above the age of 16 years the matter is to be referred immediately to the QPS.

In all situations the principal is required to take action to support the best interests of the student/s, which may include involving the Guidance Officer or other support personnel, as required.

Protection from liability for Education Queensland employees

An employee who follows the Student Protection procedure reporting processes will be entitled to seek the protection from liability in civil, criminal and administrative processes available under s.22 of the Child Protection Act 1999.  Further, they will be entitled to the confidentiality protections afforded to notifiers under s.186 of the Child Protection Act 1999.  

An employee who makes a voluntary report to Child Safety or QPS, outside the Student Protection procedure reporting processes will also be entitled to seek the protections afforded by ss. 22 and 186 provided they have complied with s.22 of the Child Protection Act 1999.

Online Resources

Review Date

21/01/2015
Attribution CC BY

Child/ren
A person under 18 years of age.

Employee
For the purposes of this procedure the definition of an employee is adopted as defined in s. 364 of the Education (General Provisions) Act 2006 (Qld) to mean ’a person engaged to carry out work at the school for financial reward’. This includes paid employees of the P&C, contractors on school premises, Youth Support Coordinators, School-Based Youth Health Nurses and Chaplains, etc.

Female Genital Mutilation, as defined in section 323A of the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld) (Criminal Code), means clitoridectomy, or excision of any other part of the female genitalia, or a procedure to narrow or close the vaginal opening or any other mutilation of the female genitalia; but does not include a sexual reassignment procedure; or a medical procedure for a genuine therapeutic purpose. Note also that it is an offence under section 323B of the Criminal Code to remove a child from the state or arrange to remove a child to have Female Genital Mutilation performed on them.

Harm
For the purposes of this procedure the definition of harm is adopted as defined in s.9 of the Child Protection Act 1999 (Qld):

  1. Harm, to a child, is any detrimental effect of a significant nature on the child’s physical, psychological or emotional wellbeing.
  2. It is immaterial how the harm is caused.
  3. Harm can be caused by –
    • physical, psychological or emotional abuse or neglect; or
    • sexual abuse or exploitation
  4. Harm can be caused by –
    • a single act, omission or circumstance; or
    • a series or combination of acts, omissions or circumstances.

Types of Harm 

  • Sexual abuse is a criminal offence. It refers to any sexual dealing with a child under 16 (or under 18 where the dealing involves sodomy). It includes the inducement or coercion of a child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, sexually explicit conduct or behaviour for the sexual gratification or profit of the person responsible. It also includes circumstances where a child under 16 (or under 18 where sodomy is involved) seemingly gives consent to the conduct. It also includes circumstances where there is an unacceptable risk that the child may be sexually abused. Such activity can include among other things, exhibitionism, exposing students to pornographic images or text, fondling, oral sex and intercourse. Where the child is above the age of 16 but is not yet 18 and suffers from an impairment of the mind (means a person with a disability that (a) is attributable to an intellectual, psychiatric, cognitive or neurological impairment or a combination of these and (b) results in (i) a substantial reduction of the person’s capacity for communication, social interaction or learning; and (ii) the person needing support) a person who engages in sexual dealing with the child commits an offence. 
  • Physical abuse occurs when an adult or another young person or child deliberately assaults a child or young person. A person who strikes, touches, or moves, or otherwise applies force of any kind to, the person of another, either directly or indirectly, without the other person’s consent, or with the other person’s consent if the consent is obtained by fraud, or who by any bodily act or gesture attempts or threatens to apply force of any kind to the person of another without the other person’s consent, under such circumstances that the person making the attempt or threat has actually or apparently a present ability to effect the person’s purpose, is said to assault that other person, and the act is called an assault. Applies force includes the case of applying heat, light, electrical force, gas, odour, or any other substance or thing whatever if applied in such a degree as to cause injury or personal discomfort. Physical abuse can also include placing children and young people in situations where they are at risk of being harmed, for example, locking children in hot cars. 
  • Emotional abuse occurs when children are deprived of an environment which supports and nurtures them emotionally and intellectually. Emotional abuse may occur when children are exposed to chronic/severe domestic and family violence; significant parental mental health and/or substance abuse concerns; parental behaviours that are persistent and/or repetitive, and have a negative impact on a child’s development, social needs, self-worth or self-esteem; parental criminal and/or corrupting behaviour; parental behaviours that deliberately expose a child to traumatic events.
  • Neglect is denying a child or young person access to their basic needs including food, clothing, housing and health care. A child living in unhygienic conditions or being denied access to education are also forms of neglect as are failing to adequately protect a child or provide age appropriate levels of supervision.

Official misconduct
As described in the Crime and Misconduct Act 2001 (Qld) ss. 14-15 - conduct that could, if proved, be a criminal offence or a disciplinary breach providing reasonable grounds for terminating the person’s services, if the person is the holder of an appointment.

Parent/carer acting protectively
A parent/carer who supports the best interests of their child/young person by:

  • providing support to the child/young person when there are concerns of self-harm or risk of self-harm
  • engaging with school personnel to support the child/young person at school, and
  • seeking medical or mental health care or referral to counselling services as required.

Principal
Refers to the principal or officer in charge, from time to time, of a state educational institution.

Reasonably suspects
Suspects on grounds that are reasonable in the circumstances.

Relevant information
Under section 159C of the Child Protection Act 1999, relevant information means, in respect of giving information to the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services (Child Safety) chief executive or an authorised Child Safety Officer (CSO), information that the Department of Education, Training and Employment (DETE) authorised officer reasonably believes may:

(i) help an authorised CSO to investigate an allegation of harm or risk of harm to a child or assess a child’s need for protection; or
(ii) help the Child Safety chief executive take action, or decide if he or she reasonably suspects a child is in need of protection, under section 14; or
(iii) help an authorised CSO to investigate or assess, before the birth of a child, the likelihood that the child will need protection after he or she is born; or
(iv) help the Child Safety  chief executive in offering help and support to a pregnant woman under section 21A; or
(v) help the Child Safety chief executive to develop, or assess the effectiveness of, a child’s case plan; or
(vi) help the  Child Safety chief executive to assess or respond to the health, educational or care needs of a relevant child; or
(vii) otherwise help the  Child Safety chief executive to make plans or decisions relating to, or provide services to, a relevant child or the child’s family.

Relevant information also means, in respect of giving information to another service provider (a prescribed entity or another person providing a service to children or families or a recognised entity) information a DETE authorised officer reasonably believes may help the service provider to—

(i) decide whether information about suspected harm or risk of harm to a child should be given to the Child Safety chief executive; or
(ii) decide whether information about an unborn child who may need protection after birth should be given to the  Child Safety chief executive; or
(iii) help the Child Safety chief executive to offer help and support to a pregnant woman under section 21A; or
(iv) assess or respond to the health, educational or care needs of a child in need of protection; or
(v) otherwise make plans or decisions relating to, or provide services to, a child in need of protection or the child’s family. 

SCAN (Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect) team system
The purpose of the SCAN team system is to enable a coordinated, multi-agency response to children where statutory intervention is required to assess and meet their protection needs. This is achieved by:

  • timely information sharing between SCAN team core members
  • planning and coordination of actions to assess and respond to the protection needs of children who have experienced harm or risk of harm
  • holistic and culturally responsive assessment of children’s protection needs.

Within the SCAN team system, an Information Coordination Meeting (ICM) provides a forum for discussion of a matter where a SCAN team core member representative seeks further information regarding the rationale for a child safety intake decision and requires the opportunity for multi-agency discussion. It is attended by representatives from SCAN team core member agencies only.

The members of the SCAN team undertake an assessment of available information in relation to each case and formulate recommendations for action. A SCAN team comprises:

  • a SCAN team coordinator (Child Safety)
  • a SCAN team administration officer (Child Safety)
  • a representative from the SCAN team core member agencies:
    • Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services 
    • Queensland Police Service
    • Queensland Health
    • Department of Education, Training and Employment
    • the recognised entity when an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child is the subject of discussion.

School staff member
Employed by Education Queensland and normally performs their daily duties within a school or schools, whether on a temporary, permanent or contract basis.

School visitor
Any person who visits the school on a one off or regular basis to provide services to the school. This includes any volunteers assisting in the school tuckshop, classrooms or on school excursions or presenters of one-off programs.

Self-harm
Harm that requires immediate medical or psychological intervention. Self-harm includes self-inflicted injuries, OR other self-inflicted physical or psychological damage.

  • Self-inflicted injuries. Child has recent injuries and EITHER child admits inflicting injuries or the pattern of injuries appears self-inflicted.
  • Other self-inflicted physical or psychological damage. Child’s behaviour has caused or is likely to cause serious physical or psychological damage to self. Serious damage requires immediate medical or psychological evaluation or intensive treatment (e.g. acute drug overdose)

Sexual conduct
Any behaviour that might reasonably be interpreted as being designed or intended to arouse or gratify sexual desires.

State educational institution
A state educational institution established under the Education (General Provisions) Act 2006.

Student
Any person, regardless of age, who attends a state educational institution, established under section 13, 14 or 15 of the Education (General Provisions) Act 2006 (Qld).  For the purposes of this procedure only, the definition of ‘student’ includes a pre-preparatory age child being provided with a pre-preparatory learning program at a prescribed state school (see section 419A of the Education (General Provisions) Act 2006) and a child registered in a distance education pre-preparatory learning program provided by a state school (see section 419F of the Education (General Provisions) Act 2006).