Duty of Care • Whenever a student–teacher relationship exists, the teacher has a special duty of care. This is defined as: “A teacher is to take such measures as are reasonable in the circumstances to protect a student under the teacher’s charge from risks of injury that the teacher should reasonably have foreseen.” • As part of that duty, teachers are required to supervise students adequately. This requires not only protection from known hazards, but also protection from those that could arise. • School authorities in breach of the duty may be liable for injuries inflicted by one student on another, as well as for injuries sustained by a student.
Duty of Care • Schools normally satisfy the duty of care by allocating responsibilities to different staff . • Teachers are responsible for carrying out their assigned supervisory duties in such a way that students are, as far as can be reasonably expected, protected from injury.
Duty of Care • Supervisory duties of teachers include: • Supervision of students under their care during timetabled classes • Supervision of students on excursions where they are the supervising teacher • Supervision of students whilst they are on yard duty More information about “duty of care” can be found at http://www.eduweb.vic.gov.au/edulibrary/public/schadmin/environment/4-6.pdf
Duty of Care Scenarios • A Year Eight student in your IT class speaks to you after the lesson about the fact that another student enrolled at the school has been posting hurtful messages on Facebook. These messages have been posted outside of school hours. Do you have to intervene?
Duty of Care Scenarios According to DEECD, the schools duty of care in online spaces “Providing and supervising the use of technology which allows access to messaging services and to the internet raises an area of considerable risk for schools. Meeting the duty of care owed to students in the context of risks related to use of and supervision of technology at school - or at home where that equipment is provided by the school or used at the direction of the school – will require schools to take positive, reasonable steps to protect the student from the risks. The acceptable use agreement will be an important component of demonstrating that such positive, reasonable steps have been taken.”
Duty of Care Scenarios • You are on yard duty on the oval when a serious (it is clear this in not a play-fight) fight breaks out. They are at risk of seriously hurting one another. Do you step in to break up the fight?
Duty of Care Scenarios • In Moran v Victorian Institute of Teaching VCAT 1311 (31 July 2007), the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) overturned the decision of the Victorian Institute of Teaching to deregister a teacher because he failed to intervene in a school yard fight. The VCAT held that it was reasonable for the teacher not to intervene in the fight, if his/her physical safety was under threat.
Duty of Care Scenarios • During the school day, you are not scheduled on to teach. You head to the local Macca’s for a Big Mac and on the way you see a group of three Year Nine students walking away from the school. You pull up next to them and when they recognise you they run off. What do you do?
Duty of Care Scenarios • When a student runs away from school, the parent/guardian should be informed immediately. • Where there is reasonable concern for the student’s safety or the safety of others, immediate contact should also be made with the police and the Department’s Emergency and Security Management Unit, telephone 9589 6266 (twenty-four-hour service) (see also 6.15.3).
Duty of Care • The duty of care can exist outside of school hours. For instance, the "pupil-teacher" relationship may exist: • before school hours when the pupils are permitted to enter the school premises; • after school hours when pupils access public transport near the school premises, and on school buses; and • at weekend sporting and fund-raising activities after school hours.
What about students suing schools ‘down the track’? • In AB v State of Victoria (unreported, 2001), the Supreme Court allowed a pupil to recover damages from the Department of Education because her school failed to detect her abuse although there was a reasonable suspicion that the pupil might be the victim of abuse at home. • See manadatory reporting presentation to address this...