CHILD SAFE POLICY 2016
Our commitment to child safety
Southern Autistic School is committed to the safety and wellbeing of all children and young people.
This Code of Conduct has a specific focus on safeguarding students against sexual, physical, psychological and emotional abuse or neglect. It is intended to complete child protection legislation, school policies/procedures and professional standards and codes.
All staff, volunteers, contractors and School Council members are expected to actively contribute to a school culture that respects the dignity of its members and affirms care for others, compassion and justice. They are required to observe child-safe principles and expectations for appropriate behaviour towards and in the company of students, as noted below.
All children, regardless of their gender, race, religious beliefs, age, disability, sexual orientation, or family or social background, have equal rights to protection from abuse.
We want children to be safe, happy and empowered.
We support and respect all children, as well as our staff and volunteers.
We are committed to the safety, participation and empowerment of all children.
We have zero tolerance of child abuse, and all allegations and safety concerns will be treated very seriously and consistently with our robust policies and procedures.
We have legal and moral obligations to contact authorities when we are worried about a child’s safety, which we follow rigorously.
We are committed to preventing child abuse and identifying risks early, and removing and reducing these risks.
We are committed to regularly training and educating our staff and volunteers on child abuse risks.
We support and respect all children, as well as our staff and volunteers. We are committed to the cultural safety of Aboriginal children, the cultural safety of children from a culturally and/or linguistically diverse backgrounds, and to providing a safe environment for children with a disability.
We have specific policies, procedures and training in place that support our leadership team, staff and volunteers to achieve these commitments.
The Principal, Assistant Principal and the Social Worker are responsible for leading the development of a culture of child safety and are the first point of contact for concerns regarding student safety at this school.
A Child Safety Code of Conduct:
To promote child safety in the school environment we acknowledge the following:
All students have a right to:
- Take part in learning programs that meet their individual needs.
- Feel secure and to be safe in a caring and supportive environment.
- Work and play without interference in an atmosphere of harmony and cooperation.
- Receive respect, kindness and courtesy and to be treated with fairness.
- Have learning continue without disruption in a supportive environment.
- Be valued for their individuality including; race, gender, cultural, physical or intellectual diversity.
- Expect the school rules are fair, consistently implemented and respect the rights of all.
This policy is intended to empower children in our care and charge. We endeavour to involve them when making decisions or “good choices”, especially about matters that directly affect them. We listen to their views and respect what they have to say.
We promote diversity and tolerance in our organisation, and people from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds are welcome. In particular we:
- promote the cultural safety, participation and empowerment of Aboriginal children
- promote the cultural safety, participation and empowerment of children from culturally and/or linguistically diverse backgrounds
- ensure that children are safe and can participate equally.
Our staff and volunteers
This policy guides our staff and volunteers on how to behave with children in our school.
All of our staff and volunteers must agree to abide by our Code of Conduct which specifies the standards of conduct required when working with children.
School staff adheres to the following standards about the ways in which school staff are expected to behave with children:
- School staff provides opportunities for all students to learn.
- School staff treat their students with courtesy and dignity.
- School staff work within the limits of their professional expertise.
- School staff maintain objectivity in their relationships with students.
- School staff are always in a professional relationship with the students in their school whether at school or not.
All staff, volunteers, contractors and School Council members are responsible for supporting the safety of students by:
- Taking all reasonable steps to protect students from abuse.
- Treating everyone in the community with respect (modelling positive and respectful relationships and acting in a manner that sustains a safe, educational and pastoral environment).
- Listening and responding to the views and concerns of students, particularly if they are telling you that they or another student have been abused or that they are worried about their safety/the safety of another student.
- Promoting the cultural safety, participation and empowerment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students (for example, by never questioning an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander student’s self-identification).
- Promoting the cultural safety, participation and empowerment of students with culturally and/or linguistically diverse backgrounds (for example, by having a zero tolerance policy towards discrimination).
- Promoting the safety, participation and empowerment of students with a disability.
- Ensuring as far as practicable that adults are not alone with a student – line of sight maintained for viewing by others
- Reporting any allegations of child abuse to the Leadership Team.
- Understanding and complying with all reporting obligations as the relate to mandatory reporting and reporting under the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic.).
- Reporting any child safety concerns to the Leadership Team.
- If an allegation of child abuse is made, ensuring as quickly as possible that the student(s) are safe.
Staff and volunteers must not:
- Ignore or disregard any suspected or disclosed child abuse.
- Develop any ‘special’ relationships with students that could be seen as favouritism (for example, the offering of gifts or special treatment for specific students).
- Exhibit behaviours with students which may be construed as unnecessarily physical (for example, inappropriate sitting on laps).
- Put students at risk of abuse (for example, by locking doors).
- Initiate unnecessary physical contact with students or do things of a personal nature that a student can do for themselves, such as toileting or changing clothes.
- Engage in open discussions of a mature or adult nature in the presence of students (for example, personal social activities).
- Use inappropriate language in the presence of students.
- Express personal views on cultures, race or sexuality in the presence of students.
- Discriminate against any students because of age, gender, race, culture, vulnerability, sexuality, ethnicity and disability.
- Have contact with a student or their family outside of school without the Leadership Team’s knowledge and/or consent (for example, unauthorised after-hours tutoring, private instrumental/other lessons or sport coaching); accidental contact, such as seeing people in the street, is appropriate.
- Having online contact with a student (including by social media, email, instant messaging etc.) or their family (unless necessary e.g. by providing families with e-newsletters or assisting students with their school work).
- Use any personal communication channels/device such as a personal email account.
- Exchange personal contact details such as phone number, social networking sites or personal email addresses.
- Photograph or video students without the consent of the parent or guardians.
- Work with students while under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs.
- Consume alcohol or drugs at a school or at school events in the presence of students.
Training and supervision
Training and education is important to ensure that everyone in our organisation understands that child safety is everyone’s responsibility.
Our organisational culture aims for all staff and volunteers (in addition to parents/carers and children) to feel confident and comfortable in discussing any allegations of child abuse or child safety concerns. We train our staff and volunteers to identify, assess, and minimise risks of child abuse and to detect potential signs of child abuse.
We also support our staff and volunteers through ongoing training to:
- Develop their skills to protect children from abuse
- Promote the cultural safety of Aboriginal children,
- To promote the cultural safety of children from linguistically and/or diverse backgrounds,
- To promote the safety of children with a disability.
New employees and volunteers will be :-
- Provided pith a copy of this policy
- Complete an induction program
- Paired with an experienced member of staff whenever possible .
We take all reasonable steps to employ skilled people to work with children
All people engaged in child-related work, including volunteers, are required to hold a Working with Children Check and to provide evidence of this Check. Please see the Working with Children Checkwebsite <www.workingwithchildren.vic.gov.au> for further information
We carry out reference checks to ensure that we are recruiting the right people
If during the recruitment process a person’s records indicate a criminal history then the person will be given the opportunity to provide further information and context.
All teachers must comply with VIT registration requirements.
Fair procedures for personnel
The safety and wellbeing of children is our primary concern. We are also fair and just to personnel. The decisions we make when recruiting, assessing incidents, and undertaking disciplinary action will always be thorough, transparent, and based on evidence.
We record all allegations of abuse and safety concerns using including investigation updates. All records are securely stored.
If an allegation of abuse or a safety concern is raised, we provide updates to children and families on progress and any actions we as an organisation undertaken.
All personal information considered or recorded will respect the privacy of the individuals involved, whether they be staff, volunteers, parents or children, unless there is a risk to someone’s safety. We have safeguards and practices in place to ensure any personal information is protected. Everyone is entitled to know how this information is recorded, what will be done with it, and who will have access to it.
Our school takes our legal responsibilities seriously, including:
- Failure to disclose: Reporting child sexual abuse is a community-wide responsibility. All adults in Victoria who have a reasonable belief that an adult has committed a sexual offence against a child under 16 have an obligation to report that information to the police.
- Failure to protect: People of authority in our organisation will commit an offence if they know of a substantial risk of child sexual abuse and have the power or responsibility to reduce or remove the risk, but negligently fail to do so.
- Any personnel who are mandatory reporters must comply with their duties.
In Victoria, organisations are required to protect children when a risk is identified (see information about failure to protect above). In addition to general occupational health and safety risks, we proactively manage risks of abuse to our children.
We have risk management strategies in place to identify, assess, and take steps to minimise child abuse risks, which include risks posed by physical environments (for example, any doors that can lock), and online environments (for example, no staff or volunteer is to have contact with a child in organisations on social media).
Procedures for responding to and reporting allegations of suspected child abuse
Forming a belief on reasonable grounds
A person may form a belief on reasonable grounds that a child is in need of protection after becoming
aware that a child or young person’s health, safety or wellbeing is at risk.
Reporting a belief
Mandated staff members (Teachers and Principals) must make a report to Child Protection as soon as practicable after forming a belief on reasonable grounds that a child or young person is in need of
Staff members, whether or not mandated, need to report to the principal or assistant principal their
belief when the belief is formed in the course of undertaking their professional duties. A report must be made as soon as practicable after forming the belief and on each occasion on which they become aware of any further reasonable grounds for the belief.
If one staff member has a different view from another staff member about making a report and the staff member continues to hold the belief that a child is in need of protection, that person is obliged to make a report.
Please refer to the Mandatory Reporting Policy and Procedures Policy 2014 for procedures in
response to allegations of child abuse.
These procedures do not:
- prohibit or discourage school staff from reporting an allegation of child abuse to a person external to the school;
- state or imply that it is the victim's responsibility to inform the police or other authorities of the allegation;
- require staff to make a judgment about the truth of the allegation of child abuse; or
- prohibit staff from making records in relation to an allegation or disclosure of child abuse.
Strategies to identify and reduce or remove risks of child abuse
Risk management strategies have been developed within the following school policies:
- Mandatory Reporting Policy and Procedures Policy 2014
- Student Engagement Policy 2014
- Duty of Care Policy 2014
- If the school identifies risks of child abuse occurring in one or more school environments the authority must make a record of those risks and specify the action(s) the school will take to reduce or remove the risks (risk controls).
Explanatory note: Different risk controls may be necessary for particular groups of children
depending on the nature of the risk and the diversity characteristics of children affected by the risk.
- As part of its risk management strategy and practices, the school must monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation of its risk controls.
- At least annually, the school must ensure that appropriate guidance and training is provided to the individual members of the school staff about: individual and collective obligations and responsibilities for managing the risk of child abuse; child abuse risks in the school environment; and
the school's current child safety standards.
Strategies to promote child empowerment and participation
The school authority must develop strategies to deliver appropriate education about:
- standards of behaviour for students attending the school;
- healthy and respectful relationships (including sexuality);
- resilience such as the “So Safe” program and
- child abuse awareness and prevention.
- The school must promote the child safety standards in ways that are readily accessible, easy to understand, and user-friendly to children.
This policy will be reviewed every two years and following significant incidents if they occur. We will ensure that families and children have the opportunity to contribute. Where possible we do our best to work with local Aboriginal communities, culturally and/or linguistically diverse communities and people with a disability.
Allegations, concerns and complaints
Our school takes all allegations seriously and has practices in place to investigate thoroughly and quickly. Our staff and volunteers are trained to deal appropriately with allegations.
We work to ensure all children, families, staff and volunteers know what to do and who to tell if they observe abuse or are a victim, and if they notice inappropriate behaviour.
We all have a responsibility to report an allegation of abuse if we have a reasonable belief that an incident took place (see information about failure to disclose above).
If an adult has a reasonable belief that an incident has occurred then they must report the incident. Factors contributing to reasonable belief may be:
- a child states they or someone they know has been abused (noting that sometimes the child may in fact be referring to themselves)
- behaviour consistent with that of an abuse victim is observed
- someone else has raised a suspicion of abuse but is unwilling to report it
- observing suspicious behaviour.
All registered teachers undertake annual Mandatory Reporting DET Professional Development Online Learning modules and Assessment.
Child means a person below the age of 18 years unless, under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.
Child protection means any responsibility, measure or activity undertaken to safeguard children from harm.
Child abuse means all forms of physical abuse, emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse and exploitation, neglect or negligent treatment, commercial (e.g. for financial gain) or other exploitation of a child and includes any actions that results in actual or potential harm to a child.
Child sexual assault is any act which exposes a child to, or involves a child in, sexual processes beyond his or her understanding or contrary to accepted community standards. Sexually abusive behaviours can include the fondling of genitals, masturbation, oral sex, vaginal or anal penetration by a penis, finger or any other object, fondling of breasts, voyeurism, exhibitionism, and exposing the child to or involving the child in pornography. It includes child grooming, which refers to actions deliberately undertaken with the aim of befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a child to lower the child’s inhibitions in preparation for sexual activity with the child.
Reasonable grounds for belief is a belief based on reasonable grounds that child abuse has occurred when all known considerations or facts relevant to the formation of a belief are taken into account and these are objectively assessed. Circumstances or considerations may include the source of the allegation and how it was communicated, the nature of and details of the allegation, and whether there are any other related matters known regarding the alleged perpetrator.
A reasonable belief is formed if a reasonable person believes that:
(a) The child is in need of protection,
(b) The child has suffered or is likely to suffer “significant harm as a result of physical injury”,
(c) The parents are unable or unwilling to protect the child.
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) A child states that they have been physically or sexually abused;
b) A child states that they know someone who has been physically or sexually abused (sometimes the child may be talking about themselves);
c) Someone who knows a child states that the child has been physically or sexually abused;
d) Professional observations of the child’s behaviour or development leads a professional to form a belief that the child has been physically or sexually abused or is likely to be abused; and/or
e) Signs of abuse lead to a belief that the child has been physically or sexually abused.
Date Implemented: 18 August 2016 Author: Jeffery Innes Approved By: School Council