School Community Safety Orders
Unfortunately, it is commonplace for Principals and other school staff to be subjected to abuse and violence in their role. Indeed, the scourge is contributing to the deterioration of the overall mental health and wellbeing of many Principals.
We understand that this can be one of the most difficult tasks you face in your role as Principal. We have supported many Principals to manage these situations, both on a short and long term basis through a range of techniques and strategies.
Helpfully, the Victorian Government has recently introduced a bill designed to curb aggression and violence directed towards school staff from adult members of the school community. The proposed legislation provides for the making of certain orders to protect members of school communities from harmful, threatening or abusive behaviour and provide for civil penalties for the enforcement of those orders. Importantly, the proposed laws extend beyond the actual school premises itself whereby parents who are abusive on social media could also be banned from school grounds.
Protection of school communities – Orders that respond to risks of occupational violence and aggression
The Education and Training Reform Amendment (Protection of School Communities) Bill 2021 (Vic) empowers authorised persons (Principals) to ban aggressive and violent parents from entering school grounds.
Under the proposed laws, authorised persons (including Principals) have the power to:
- direct a person to leave and remain off school grounds, or other places related to the school (an immediate school community safety order); or
- prohibit a person from entering or remaining on school grounds or other places related to the school, or from engaging in certain types of inappropriate conduct (an ongoing school community safety order).
Immediate school community safety order
An immediate school community safety order can be made if the authorised person reasonably believes an order is necessary because the person poses an unacceptable and imminent risk of:
- causing harm to a member of the school community; or
- causing significant disruption to the school; or
- interfering with the wellbeing, safety or educational opportunities of students enrolled at the school.
An immediate school community safety order is appropriate where an imminent risk of harm and require immediate and urgent preventive and protective action. Such an order will only remain in effect for up to 14 days or until the process for the making an ongoing school community safety order can be undertaken.
As soon as practicable after an immediate school community safety order is made, the authorised person must review the order and either make an ongoing school community safety order or revoke the immediate school community safety order.
Ongoing school community safety order
An ongoing school community safety order can be made if the authorised person reasonably believes that the person:
- poses an unacceptable risk of harm to a member of the school community;
- poses an unacceptable risk of causing significant disruption to the school;
- poses an unacceptable risk of interfering with the wellbeing, safety or educational opportunities of students enrolled at the school;
- has behaved and is likely to behave in a disorderly, offensive, intimidating or threatening manner to a member of the school community; or
- has engaged and is likely to engage in vexatious communications with, or regarding, a staff member at the school.
Ongoing school community safety orders can last for a maximum of 12 months and require a Principal to undertake additional procedural fairness requirements.
Those who are banned from school grounds will still be able to communicate with the school and can seek an external review at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
Anyone who contravenes an immediate or an ongoing school community safety order can face enforcement action at the Magistrates Court, including fines and other court orders.
How can Brennan Law Partners assist your school?
It is worthwhile familiarising yourself with this proposed legislation so that you are across it if and when it comes into effect. Reports suggest that the Bill will not be opposed, so it may not be far off becoming law.
In the meantime, there are other steps that can be taken to protect yourself and your school community from harmful behaviour. If you need assistance with managing such an issue, contact us for help.
If you have any questions regarding any information in this BLP Brief, we welcome you to contact us at any time.