School asks sex vic­tim to leave

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - LINDA SILMALIS CHIEF RE­PORTER

THE par­ents of a six-year-old who was sex­u­ally as­saulted in toi­lets by a class­mate have been told they need to take their child to an­other school — or the two chil­dren will be kept in the same class.

It fol­lows an­other in­ci­dent late last year when a kinder­garten stu­dent at a nearby school was sex­u­ally as­saulted by a pri­mary school peer on a bus.

The par­ents, who with­drew their child from school, said they were also ad­vised they should change schools.

The cases came to light last week after for­mer school prin­ci­pal and Wy­ong MP David Har­ris raised the mat­ter in state Par­lia­ment after be­ing vis­ited by both sets of par­ents, who were out­raged their chil­dren were be­ing treated as though they had done some­thing wrong.

The in­ci­dents have also re­newed calls for a na­tional ban on smart­phones in schools amid con­cerns they are con­tribut­ing to the early sex­u­al­i­sa­tion of chil­dren.

“Both sets of par­ents — the in­ci­dents are to­tally sep­a­rate and the par­ents do not know each other — have come to me ex­press­ing sim­i­lar thoughts: if they tell their young child, who en­joys be­ing at the school with their friends, who likes their teacher and who likes be­ing in class, that they have to move, it might cause their child to think some­how it was their fault that they were as­saulted,” Mr Har­ris said.

A third in­ci­dent of a sim­i­lar na­ture had oc­curred at an­other school where his wife taught, Mr Har­ris said.

While de­scrib­ing it as a “dif­fi­cult sub­ject”, Mr Har­ris said teach­ers were not be­ing given enough guid­ance on how to han­dle these in­ci­dents.

He said the school that had in­sisted on keep­ing the stu­dents to­gether in the same class had ar­gued that it would help teach­ers to keep an eye on both stu­dents.

Mr Har­ris said it was an ex­am­ple of prin­ci­pals and teach­ers be­ing left to fig­ure it out for them­selves, in­stead of be­ing given clear guide­lines. At the same time, school coun­sel­lors were in­creas­ingly con­sumed with pa­per­work in­stead of be­ing made avail­able to stu­dents.

“The schools are in the dif­fi­cult po­si­tion of hav­ing per­haps used sus­pen­sion or some other mea­sure but be­ing un­able to re­move the per­pe­tra­tor from the school be­cause the per­pe­tra­tor’s rights must also be pro­tected,” Mr Har­ris said.

Psy­chol­o­gist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg said the in­ci­dence of child-on-child sex­ual as­sault was on the rise, with ac­cess to smart­phones a con­trib­u­tor. In NSW, mo­bile phone pol­icy is left up to each in­di­vid­ual school.

Dr Carr-Gregg said there should be a na­tional ban. “I talk to a lot of prin­ci­pals who say kids are bring­ing mo­bile phones to school and tak­ing pic­tures of kids un­dress­ing, or show­ing oth­ers pic­tures such as some­one hav­ing sex with a dog,” he said.

“Chil­dren are be­ing ex­posed to things they do not un­der­stand and par­ents are un­sure what to do.”

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