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Allegations Against Employees in the Area of Child Protection, 2005: A Critical Essay

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Allegations against Employees in the Area of Child Protection, 2005

A Critical Analysis

An important and increasingly marked issue in Australia is the welfare and wellbeing of children and young people in educational settings. Staying safe is something that every child and young person should be entitled to expect at school. In this context, the DET has a duty to respond to and/or investigate allegations against employees.

The NSW Department of Education has addressed child safety, welfare and wellbeing as paramount in its policy, �Allegations against Employees in the area of Child Protection’, 2005. Such a policy is essential at a time when the surfacing of many �alleged’ victims seeking justice for acts perpetrated against them many years ago, is splashed across newspapers and televisions nationwide. At a time when new disciplinary measures against public school teachers in NSW are being implemented and the number of teachers facing official action over allegations of sexual misconduct is on the rise (Zimmer. E. 1999: online), a policy such as this needs to be in place to protect all concerned.

This policy seeks to provide a clear guide for what constitutes an allegation and procedures for dealing with allegations against an employee and in the case of victims or witnesses, the type of support available. The main focus of this policy involves:

1. Procedures to be followed in response to allegations being made against employees of the Department of Education and Training (DET) in the area of child protection.

2. The fair treatment and the rights of each individual during an investigation and any applicable disciplinary process.

3. Monitoring, evaluation and reporting requirements.

The specified goals and strategies of this policy reflect the model of retributive justice, that is, violation of rules and freedom and rights of others. Gale, T & Densmore, K. 2000: 15. In this model, guilt is absolute until proven innocent and the focus is on accountability, punishment and rehabilitation. In addition, it may not lead to the truth or justice for the victims and the offender if guilty, may or may not show remorse which could adversely affect the healing of victims. Currently however, a new model called the restorative justice model is in the process of being established. This model “includes a range of practices designed to get individuals to take responsibility for their wrong doing and to work on repairing the resulting harm, including the harm to relationships.” It entails involvement of both parties to repair the harm caused and holding those individuals answerable for their actions aiding the healing process. Restorative justice in youth settings, 2006 I believe that the possibilities associated with restorative justice, can be advantageous for the whole school community because its aim is to develop a positive and supportive milieu within the school environment.

This essay will look at this policy to determine if it meets the needs of all those in the education system in today’s world because if policies are to be effective they need to be purposeful, relevant, and workable. Policies are not documents to be developed and never again referred to. Therefore it is essential that policies are made and or revised consistently especially when problems occur or when ideas become outdated. Taylor et al 1997:24-25 The Department has recognized there is a need for such a policy to be in place and if monitored and constantly reviewed at all levels of implementation, I believe the policy will effectively serve its purpose, ultimately, to protect children and young people in educational settings.

It is true to say that although it is vital that children are protected, is it also very important for teachers to be protected from false allegations that can ruin both their lives and their careers. Following proclamation of the Child Protection Legislation Amendment Act 2003 in April 2004, amendments were made to the Ombudsman Act 1974 and the Commission for Children and Young People Act 1998. NSW Department of Education and Training, 2004:3. This review was necessary because of the many concerns about the possibility of false accusations being made against teachers and these changes helped to clarify issues that were causing concerns for employers and employees.

For example, definitions of child abuse, child abuse allegation and child abuse conviction were omitted and replaced with �reportable conduct’, �reportable allegation’ and �reportable conviction’. �Child abuse’ is strongly associated with pedophiles and if allegations are not of this nature, it is

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