School asks sex victim to leave
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.”