Following an incident, disclosure or suspicion of student sexual offending, timely communication with parents/carers of impacted students can be critical.
However before contacting parents/carers of the impacted students, Principals
must seek advice from DHHS Child Protection or Victoria Police (depending on who the report was made to) and request their direction on informing parents/carers.
This is critical to ensure the safety and welfare of the impacted students, as well as to avoid compromising the investigations being conducted by the relevant authorities
Where advised that it is appropriate to do so, school staff should make sensitive and professional contact with parents/carers of the impacted students as soon as possible, on the day that school staff became aware of the incident, disclosure or suspicion of student sexual offending.
In many cases where it is suspected that a student is a victim of student sexual offending and/or has allegedly engaged in or witnessed student sexual offending, it is extremely important that parents/carers are notified as soon as practicable. This enables parents/carers to take steps to:
- prevent or limit their child's exposure to further student sexual offending.
- ensure that their child receives the support that they require.
However there are some circumstances where contacting parents/carers may impact a child’s safety or welfare, or compromise an investigation.
This is why before contacting the parent/carer of any impacted students, your Principal (or delegate) must contact Victoria Police or DHHS Child Protection (depending on who the report has been made to). They will advise your Principal (or delegate) about whether it is appropriate to contact parents/carers at this stage.
Your Principal (or delegate) will be advised not to contact the parents/carers in circumstances where:
- a disclosure to the parent/carer may subject the child to abuse
- the student is an adult and has requested that their parent /carer not be notified
- the student is a mature minor (assessed to be sufficiently mature and intelligent to make such decisions on his or her own behalf) and has requested that their parent/carer not be notified (in these circumstances ideally the child will nominate another responsible adult be contacted)
- contacting the parents/carers is likely to adversely affect a Victoria Police or DHHS investigation of the student sexual offending.
All communication with parents/carers must be recorded within the Responding to Suspected Student Sexual Offending: Template (pdf - 303.06kb) Word version (docx - 192.01kb)
Where possible all impacted students should also be encouraged to seek family support as soon as possible.
For advice on making sensitive and professional contact with parents/carers:
- Government schools should consult with the Student Incident and Recovery Unit on (03) 9637 2934 or (03) 9637 2487
- Catholic schools should contact their Diocesan education office, including:
- Archdiocese of Melbourne: Legal Services on (03) 9267 0228
- Diocese of Sale: Child Protection Officer on (03) 5622 6600
- Diocese of Ballarat: Legal Services on (03) 5337 7135
- Diocese of Sandhurst: Assistant to the Director: Legal, Industrial & Human Resources on (03) 5443 2377.
- Independent schools can contact Independent Schools Victoria on (03) 9825 7200.
When a Principal and/or delegate contacts the parents/carers of a student who is suspected to have committed or become victim to a student sexual offending, they should:
- Remain calm
- Be empathetic to feelings
- Acknowledge concerns
- Provide appropriate details of the incident, disclosure and/or suspicion of student sexual offending
- Outline the action the school has taken to date
- Inform them of who the incident, disclosure and/or suspicion has been reported to
- Provide the name and contact phone number of DHHS Child Protection and/or the police officer who is investigating
- Provide information on whether they are likely to be contacted by DHHS Child Protection or Victoria Police
- Inform them that the investigation may take some time and ask what further information they would like and how the school can assist them.
- Assure them that school wellbeing staff can provide support to the student (for Victorian government school students a referral can be made to the Network Student Support Services Officer)
- Invite them to attend a Student Support Group meeting where a Student Support Plan can be developed to ensure appropriate support can be provided for their child
For more information on what information can be shared about student sexual offending, see: Privacy and information sharing.
For guidance on sharing information about student sexual offending to the school community, see: Information sharing with the school Community.