Teachers, Schools And The Law Essay

2114 words - 9 pages

As institutions that encourage positive interactions and outcomes, schools have become an integral facet promoting the ongoing safety of our children. In turn, the policy and procedure created by school authorities within South Australia regarding child safety is predominantly governed by the Children’s Protection Act 1993 (SA). With the objective to ‘ensure that all children are safe from harm’, its implementation provides care, compassion and support to young people through all relevant agencies. As litigation becomes an increasingly common form of dispute resolution, educators and school institutions must be aware of their legal obligations and professional boundaries, which intertwine ...view middle of the document...

24). Essentially, while the practicalities of ensuring student safety may be delegated to another authority or individual, an employer may remain legally liable for the actions of their employees, particularly when foreseeable risks have remained disregarded.
Similarly, negligence remains a highly challenged aspect of litigation; arguably the most common that teacher’s may encounter. As a tort law, negligence cases pursue compensation for damages received by examining the tribulation experienced by an individual due to the carelessness of another party (Newnham, 2000, p. 1). However, the plaintiff must first establish that a duty of care existed and prove that this responsibility was breached on a balance of probabilities composed with an element of reasonably foreseeable risk of injury (Newnham, 2000, p. 47). Ultimately, the plaintiff must prove causation, such that there is ‘a sufficiently close connection between the act or omission’ (Newnham, 2000, p. 49) and the damages received.
These elements coincide to form an Australian-wide requirement for teachers, among other professions, to report suspected cases of child abuse or neglect, known as ‘mandatory reporting’. The nature of a teacher’s occupation allows them to establish and maintain a trusting relationship with their students over the course of many meetings (Goddard, Mitchel and Tucci, 2003, p. 22). In response, teachers may recognise variations in a student’s attitude, demeanour or appearance which may act as a manifestation of misconduct. Alternatively, children may confide in their teachers as a supportive figure and disclose relative occurrences during conversation or in a desperate plea for help. In response, teachers are legally required to report any belief of child abuse or neglect based on ‘reasonable suspicion’ to the relevant authorities, such as the Child Abuse Report Line within South Australia (Mathews and Walsh, 2004).
As a support mechanism, the Act states that professionals may consult with management or leadership while determining their actions. Similarly, to remain accountable, all notifications must coincide with school procedures, in consultation with the site leader, or appropriate management. Yet, individuals are ultimately required to pass judgement and cannot merely disregard a suspicion in fear of retribution (DECD, 2011, p. 15). Nevertheless, the notion of reasonability remains under interpretation which may be perceived as confronting or perplexing to teachers who are reluctant to inaccurately report concerns, unjustly accuse individuals or place their professional image under scrutiny. Moreover, the mandating of child abuse and neglect notifications evokes a debate to whether professionals are becoming superfluously compelled to report, leading to over reporting, or conversely, some may not appreciate the importance of early intervention in child protection, resulting in underreporting (Mathews et al, 2004).
Legally, this perception becomes highly...

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