In July 2022 the State Government introduced School Community Safety Orders (SCSOs) into Victorian schools. The Orders give Principals the power to ban parents, carers and other adults from school grounds or activities if they “behave in harmful, threatening, or abusive ways”. The Orders can also ban parents from posting messages on school social media or other online platforms.
The State Government has provided a range of information about the SCSO scheme on its website:
- Overview of the School Community Safety Order Scheme
- Information for parents and carers
- Information for students
- Ministerial Guidelines (PDF, 88 pages. We’re currently developing a guide for parents to help you through this document.)
In 2018 the Protective Schools Ministerial Taskforce delivered its report to Education Minister James Merlino. The report made wide-ranging recommendations, including sections titled “Build a positive school climate & upskill our workforce” and “Enhance support for students with complex needs”. The report recommended that the Minister should consider “the benefits and risks of legislative change that enables harsher penalties for threatening or aggressive conduct towards school staff.”
The enabling legislation for SCSOs was passed by the Victorian Parliament in June 2021.
Parents Victoria campaigned against the legislation in the lead-up and during the Parliamentary debate, and we received some support from cross-bench MPs, but our efforts to defeat or amend the legislation were ultimately unsuccessful.
PV has always expressed strongly to the Victorian Government, our concerns around the unintended consequences of School Community Safety Orders.
As noted above, the Ministerial Taskforce recommended a multi-faceted approach. We’re concerned that one part of one recommendation made by the Taskforce was expedited to change legislation, well before all the risks were considered. We still believe the overall consultation was inadequate – parents should have been represented on the Taskforce.
- How will a safety order resolve a threat of violence for a school employee in the immediacy of a situation?
- How is it determined what is “harmful, threatening or abusive” and what is not?
- How can a school community member be confident that this delegated power will be used appropriately?
- What is the equivalent and immediate mechanism for adults to call upon, where an authorised person does not manage a situation that significantly impacts on the health and wellbeing of the adult and children?
- How will the relationships be set right once the order has expired?
- What happens if the Order is revoked? How is reputational damage of the adult addressed?
- How will an Order impact the children and their wellbeing?
- Who will assist vulnerable families to have the difficult conversations with schools?
- What evidence was used to determine the need for the Orders?
- What evidence does the Government have that this approach will be successful?
- PV welcomes the Victorian Government’s investment in mental health reforms, but how does this mechanism in any way support an adult with a mental health condition, known to the school or otherwise, who finds themselves in this situation?
- Why legislation specifically for schools? There are laws in force currently, that address abusive/violent behaviour, e.g. trespass orders and intervention orders.
Any violence is unacceptable in schools, anytime, anywhere, from anyone.
PV believes that a better solution to the problem is that we educate our current and future school leaders and teachers on how best to deal with conflict, by upskilling the workforce as the Taskforce recommended.
PV actively promotes strengthened relationships between families and schools. If you have not already viewed our Relationship based Education (RbE) resource platform for parents and schools, take a look. This work aims to shift the school culture, especially when conflict occurs or mistakes are made, which impact on relationships. We all need to learn how to act, not to react, in any given situation – in order to prevent the harm it can have on our children, those involved and ourselves.
PV will continue to work hard to build and strengthen relationships between home and school. PV will remain focused on the preventative vs the corrective.
Think. Wait. Communicate
In keeping with this objective of doing better together, PV has released our “catch-phrase” message – Think. Wait. Communicate – to families when they have something to say to their school. It’s a simple message and we have developed a Tip Sheet to help you ensure your communication with your school is effective and productive.