Student Protection

Version Number

7.0

Implementation Date

19/01/2015

Scope

All state schools

Purpose

This procedure outlines the roles and responsibilities of employees and visitors to state schools when dealing with student protection concerns and responding when it is suspected that a student, or an unborn child, has been harmed or is at risk of harm.
 
The procedure also clarifies responsibilities necessary for compliance with mandatory reporting obligations under the Education (General Provisions) Act 2006 and Child Protection Act 1999.​

Overview

The department is committed to providing safe and supportive learning environments and responding when an employee or visitor of a state school reasonably suspects harm or a risk of harm to students.

The procedure applies to all employees and visitors to state schools who have regular contact with students, including such activities as escorting students on camps, trips within or outside Australia, sporting activities and other extra curricula activities. 

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

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

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 corrupt conduct directly to the Crime and Corruption Commission.

Responsibilities

All employees and visitors in a state school have a responsibility to respond when it is suspected that a student, or an unborn child, has been harmed or is at risk of harm. Employees also have a responsibility to comply with mandatory reporting obligations.

Employees are not required to investigate (refer to definition) any aspect of a student protection concern before making a report. However, employees may seek information from a student to the extent necessary to clarify whether the matter reaches the threshold for a report to Child Safety or Queensland Police Service (QPS) or to determine an appropriate course of action.

Mandatory reporting 
The following are mandatory reporting obligations specified in legislation – 
  • Under s.365 & s.365A of the Education (General Provisions) Act 2006 a school staff member must 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. 
  • Under s.13E of the Child Protection Act 1999 a teacher or registered nurse must make a report when they reasonably and honestly suspect a child has suffered, is suffering or is at risk of suffering significant harm caused by physical or sexual abuse and may not have a parent able and willing to protect the child from harm. 
Non-mandatory reporting
Under s.13A of the Child Protection Act 1999, any person may make a report when they reasonably suspect:
  • a child has suffered, is suffering or is at risk of suffering significant harm and may not have a parent able and willing to protect the child from harm, or
  • an unborn child may be in need of protection because the child will be at risk of suffering significant harm after birth and may not have a parent able and willing to protect the child from harm.
Training

Process

Responding to suspected child abuse and neglect

Principals:
Training

  • Ensure that all employees and visitors are aware of student protection reporting obligations and processes by making certain the completion of an appropriate level of student protection training (Refer to Student Protection Guidelines). 
  • Keep a record of staff completion of student protection training and subsequent training updates.

Reporting

  • Use one or more of the following when considering whether suspicions of harm reach the threshold for reporting to QPS and/or Child Safety:
    • ​the online Child Protection Guide 
    • professional judgement
    • confer with relevant colleagues within the school 
    • contact with the Child Safety Regional Intake Service (RIS) 
    • contact with the Family and Child Connect service. 
  • Upon receiving any information indicating a reasonable suspicion that: 
    • ​a student has been sexually abused or is likely to be sexually abused, or 
    • a student or unborn child may be in need of protection as a result of physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect (i.e. has suffered, is suffering or is at unacceptable risk of suffering significant harm, and may not have a parent able and willing to protect), 

​provide a report via the OneSchool Student Protection Reporting module to QPS and/or Child Safety, as a matter of urgency. 

Note: Where a principal receives a report submitted by an employee who is fulfilling a mandatory reporting obligation, principals must immediately forward the report to QPS and/or Child Safety. 

  • ​​​​Do not reveal to any individual the identity of a person who has made a student protection report without that person’s consent or unless permitted or required by law (see Child Protection Act 1999 Chapter 6 s. 186). 
  • Contact the local SCAN team representative (Senior Guidance Officer) when a student warrants referral to an Information Coordination Meeting (ICM) or SCAN team meeting (See ICM and SCAN Team System Manual).

 Supporting students

  • Implement processes to monitor and support any student subjected to or at risk of harm from any source, as appropriate.
  • Consider a referral to a Family and Child Connect service, Intensive Family Support Service or other relevant community agency when there are concerns for the wellbeing of a student that do not meet the threshold for a report to QPS or Child Safety and it is believed that the child and family would benefit from supportive services.  This may include sharing information in accordance with the procedure Information Sharing under Child Protection Act 1999.
    • NOTE: While the law permits sharing of personal information without consent of the persons concerned for the purpose of the referrals mentioned above, it is the Department’s view that the above referrals should be pursued only on a consent basis unless there are exceptional circumstances that justify sharing without consent. Staff should be cognisant of the potential negative reactions of the persons concerned of sharing their personal information without consent, even where staff consider the sharing beneficial or protective in nature.

      It is also important to note that information about a pregnant woman and her unborn baby
      can never be shared without the pregnant woman’s consent.
  • Implement processes to enable collaboration with other agencies where this is in the best interests of the student and in accordance with s.426 of the Education (General Provisions) Act 2006. This may include sharing information in accordance with the procedure Information Sharing under Child Protection Act 1999.

Supporting staff

Managing records

  • Store documented suspicions and/or incidents of harm, copies of Student Protection reports, or related information in a secure location or in OneSchool.

School based employees:
Reporting 

  • Discuss all suspicions of harm or risk of harm to a student, or risk of harm to an unborn child, with the principal. When the suspicions relate to the principal, discuss the concerns with the Regional Director.
  • Use one or more of the following when considering whether suspicions of harm reach the threshold for reporting to QPS and/or Child Safety:
    • the online Child Protection Guide
    • professional judgement
    • confer with the principal/deputy principal or relevant staff such as the Guidance Officer or School Based Youth Health Nurse.
  • To comply with mandatory reporting obligations, or when requested by the principal, commence a report and provide it to the principal via the OneSchool Student Protection Reporting module, as a matter of urgency.
    • Note: Where a mandatory reporting obligation to Child Safety applies under s13E of the Child Protection Act 1999, the provision of a report is your personal responsibility. Accordingly, when using the OneSchool module you must ensure that the report you submitted to the principal has been reported to authorities by the principal, as a matter of urgency.
  • When the suspicions relate to the principal, refer to the procedure Allegations Against Employees in the Area of Student Protection for guidance on processes to report concerns.

Supporting students

  • ​Monitor and support any student subjected to or at risk of harm from any source, as appropriate.
  • Where authorised, collaborate with other agencies where this is in the best interests of the student and in accordance with school processes and s.426 of the Education (General Provisions) Act 2006.  This may include sharing information in accordance with the procedure Information Sharing under Child Protection Act 1999.

 Managing records

  • Document suspicions and/or incidents of harm and provide all records to the principal for storage in a secure location or in OneSchool.

Employees located in Central and Regional Offices who have regular contact with students:

  • ​Discuss all suspicions of harm or risk of harm to a student, or risk of harm to an unborn child, with the relevant principal. When the suspicions relate to the principal, discuss the concerns with the Regional Director.
  • Document suspicions and/or incidents of harm and provide all records to the principal for storage in a secure location or in OneSchool.
  • When the suspicions relate to the principal, refer to the procedure Allegations Against Employees in the Area of Student Protection for guidance on processes to report concerns.

Non-departmental employees and visitors:

  • Discuss all suspicions of harm or risk of harm to a student, or risk of harm to an unborn child, with the principal. When the suspicions relate to the principal, discuss the concerns with the Regional Director.
  • Document suspicions and/or incidents of harm and provide all records to the principal for storage in a secure location or in OneSchool.
  • When the suspicions relate to the principal, refer to the procedure Allegations Against Employees in the Area of Student Protection for guidance on processes to report concerns.
  • Where the employing agency has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) 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 MOU, keep appropriate records, and abide by confidentiality requirements.

Protection from liability 
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.197A 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. 197A and 186 provided they have complied with s.197A of the Child Protection Act 1999.

Other student protection matters

Unlawful sexual relationships between children under 16 years of age

When a school staff member becomes aware or reasonably suspects sexual conduct involving a student under the age of 16 years (or 18 years for sodomy) they should refer to the Student Protection Guidelines for guidance on appropriate actions and reporting. 

Harm caused by another student
When it is suspected a student has been harmed or placed at risk of harm through the actions of another student refer to the Student Protection Guidelines and the school’s Responsible Behaviour Plan for guidance on appropriate actions and reporting. 

Student self-harm
When it is suspected a student has self-harmed or may be at risk of self-harm refer to the Student Protection Guidelines and consider appropriate responses to support the student including information on student mental health and wellbeing available at http://education.qld.gov.au/studentservices/protection/mentalhealth/index.html.​

Online Resources

Review Date

1/01/2017
Attribution CC BY

Child/ren
A person under 18 years of age.

Child in need of protection
A child in need of protection, as defined in s.10 of the Child Protection Act 1999, is a child who –

  • has suffered significant harm, is suffering significant harm, or is at unacceptable risk of suffering significant harm and
  • may not have a parent able and willing to protect the child from the harm.

Colleague
A colleague, as defined in s.13H(2) of the Child Protection Act 1999, is a person working in or for the same entity as the person.

Corrupt conduct
Corrupt conduct, as defined in ss. 14-15 of the Crime and Corruption Act 2001, is conduct that –

  • adversely affects, or could adversely affect, directly or indirectly, the performance of functions or the exercise of powers of a unit of public administration or a person holding an appointment 
  • results, or could result, directly or indirectly, in the performance of functions or the exercise of powers in a way that is not honest or is not impartial; or involves a breach of the trust placed in a person holding an appointment, either knowingly or recklessly; or involves a misuse of information or material acquired in or in connection with the performance of functions or the exercise of powers of a person holding an appointment 
  • is engaged in for the purpose of providing a benefit to the person or another person or causing a detriment to another person and
  • would, if proved, be a criminal offence; or a disciplinary breach providing reasonable grounds for terminating the person’s services, if the person is or was the holder of an appointment.

Employee
An employee, as defined in s. 364 of the Education (General Provisions) Act 2006, means a person engaged to carry out work at the school for financial reward. This includes: 

  • ​school based employees -
    principals; teachers; specialist and support staff; members of the administration team; paid employees of the P&C; Youth Support Coordinators
  • employees located in central and regional offices who have regular contact with students in a state school 
  • non-departmental employees -
    employees of other departments or services and short-term contractors working on the school site that have regular contact with students; Youth Support Coordinators; School-Based Youth Health Nurses; and Chaplains.

Harm
Harm, as defined in s.9 of the Child Protection Act 1999, is any detrimental effect of a significant nature on the child’s physical, psychological or emotional wellbeing.  It is immaterial how the harm is caused and may include physical, psychological or emotional abuse, neglect and sexual abuse or exploitation.  Harm can also be caused by a single act, omission or circumstance or a series or combination of acts, omissions or circumstances. 

Investigate
To investigate includes: carrying out a systematic or formal inquiry into a student protection matter, including interviewing relevant persons; examining the facts of a student protection report; or making a determination about whether a child is in need of protection.

Parent
Refer to s.10 of the Education (General Provisions) Act 2006 for the meaning of parent.

Parent able and willing to protect the child from harm
A person may reasonably suspect that a parent is able and willing to protect their child from harm when the person believes the parent has both the ability and the willingness to ensure the safety, wellbeing and best interests of the child.   The parent’s ability and willingness may be evident in their statements and direct or indirect actions.  (Refer to Student Protection Guideline​).

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

Reasonable suspicion 
A reasonable suspicion is a suspicion formed on grounds that are reasonable in the circumstances. The Child Protection Act 1999 (s.13C), also states that -

  • a reasonable suspicion may have been informed by observation of the child, other knowledge of the child or any other relevant knowledge, training or experience the person forming the suspicion may have
  • matters that may be considered when forming a reasonable suspicion, include: detrimental effects on the child’s body or psychological or emotional state that are evident or likely to become evident in the future; the nature and severity of the detrimental effects and the likelihood they will continue; and the child’s age.

Relevant information 
Relevant information, as defined in s.159C of the Child Protection Act 1999, includes information about a child, the child’s family, someone else, a pregnant woman or an unborn child which is given to –

  • the chief executive, Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services or an authorised officer under the Child Protection Act 1999 or
  • a service provider, as defined in s. 159D of the Child Protection Act 1999.

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 and
  • holistic and culturally responsive assessment of children’s protection needs.

School staff member 
A school staff member is an individual who is employed by the department and normally performs their daily duties within a school or schools, whether on a temporary, permanent or contract basis.

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

Sexual conduct 
Sexual conduct is 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 is an institution established under the Education (General Provisions) Act 2006.

Student 
A student is any person, regardless of age, who attends a state educational institution, established under ss. 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 s 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 s. 419F of the Education (General Provisions) Act 2006).

Teacher
For the purposes of this procedure, a teacher means an approved teacher under the Education (Queensland College of Teachers) Act 2005 who is employed at a school.

Visitor 
A visitor is 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.