School Rape Blast
A SCHOOLGIRL allegedly raped in a classroom by another
student was failed by the Education Department and her school,
the state Ombudsman has found.
The department's handling of the case put the police investigation
of the alleged crime at risk and has been too slow to improve methods
for dealing with serious incidents, Ombudsman George Brouwer said.
The girl, 14, claimed she was raped at a northern suburbs school while
six other boys encouraged the sexual assault.
In a damning rebuke of the department, the Ombudsman outlined a
catalogue of failings, including:
INADEQUATE supervision and protection of students.
LACK of support for the victim and the alleged perpetrators and
FAILURE by the school to report the incident to the Department of
Human Services' child protection unit.
EMERGENCY and security management guidelines issued by the
department were not followed.
INVESTIGATIONS by the school principal that included taped
interviews with students should have been left to police and
the school should have concentrated on student welfare and school issues management.
SEVERAL students were directed to contact police to change their
witness statements as a result of the principal's investigation.
IT took 56 days to transfer the victim to a new school.
DEPARTMENTAL policies and procedures were inadequate to guide an
effective response to the incident.
Opposition education spokesman Victor Perton said the Ombudsman's
report was an explosive condemnation of an uncaring department that
exposed an appalling litany of negligence and mistakes.
"Every father and mother with a daughter in school would look at
this case with horror," he said.
"The Education Department is supposed to look after our kids, but
they were hopeless at it and they are still hopeless at it."
Mr Perton said the department had a "see no evil, hear no evil" attitude.
"The school told the family they could not keep their daughter
safe and could not help her find a safe school," Mr Perton said.
A spokesman for the department said it had sincerely apologised to
the girl and her family for the way the issue was initially handled.
"The department has since committed to ensuring that responses to
critical incidents involving students will be adequately and properly
managed and the safety and well-being of the students involved will
be the primary consideration at all times," the spokesman said.
Lawyer Viv Waller, of Maurice Blackburn Cashman, said the school's
failure to handle the situation added to the girl's distress.
The victim's family was relieved that an independent person had
validated the way they felt about what happened, Dr Waller said.
The Ombudsman launched his inquiry into the department's handling
of the incident after consultants appointed by the department had
completed a report.
The department had rejected a Freedom of Information request by the
Sunday Herald Sun for the consultants' report and deleted comments
critical of the department from the consultants' report when it was
initially provided to the Ombudsman.
Sunday Herald Sun (28-8-2005)