Hope Christian College, Child Protection – Detecting, Reporting and Addressing Grooming Behaviours
In line with Government legislation and our total commitment to the safety of the children in our care, we ask you to please read the following document and the attached policies.
All children have the right to be protected from abuse, maltreatment and harm. Grooming behaviours can precede sexual abuse in many, but not all, cases.
Hope Christian College expects a staff member, or any person engaged by the school to provide services to children, including volunteers, to observe the highest standards of ethical behaviour and integrity in their conduct.
Hope Christian College’s Staff Code of Conduct sets out our key values and how they should be applied within our workplace and in dealings with those outside of our school.
Hope Christian College’s Policy
Hope Christian College is committed to providing a safe environment for all our students. It is our policy that:
• All staff are trained with respect to the identification of grooming behaviours and relevant procedures;
• All cases of grooming are reported to the Principal or the Chairman of the Board, as soon as practicable;
• We maintain effective procedures to assist staff in identifying and reporting grooming behaviours;
• We work collaboratively with external agencies that are involved in child protection;
• We act immediately to ensure the safety of students when a belief on reasonable grounds has been formed to be at risk of abuse;
• We provide ongoing support and assistance to the students identified as having been exposed to grooming behaviours or abuse;
• In our Protective Behaviours Program, we provide students with age – appropriate training of what constitutes inappropriate behaviour; and
• We create an environment at the School conducive to staff members making reports about the behaviour of other staff members.
What is grooming?
Grooming is the means by which a person creates or exploits opportunities to safely engage in sexual contact with a particular child or children.
Grooming behaviour typically involves a graduation from attention giving and non – sexual touching to increasingly more intimate and intrusive behaviours.
Grooming is not a single act of unprofessional or inappropriate conduct, but rather a pattern of behaviour where the trust of a child is gained and a ‘special relationship’ is developed between the adult.
Grooming involves making the child feel important and special, often by giving the child extra attention, privileges and gifts. In many cases, the child’s family is engaged by the adult to gain access to the child outside of school hours and the child is encouraged to see the adult as a friend.
Grooming includes communication, by words or conduct, between an adult and a person who has care, supervision or authority for a child with the intention of facilitating the child’s involvement in sexual conduct with the adult. Examples of persons who have a child under their care, supervision or authority including the child’s:
• Parents or step – parents
• Legal guardians
• Sports coach; or
• Religious official or spiritual leader
This policy provides a general overview of what grooming behaviour typically involves.
What are indicators of grooming behaviour?
The nature of grooming behaviour is that it usually occurs when a student and adult are alone. As with other forms of abuse, students may have promised the abuser that they will not tell anyone, or they may be afraid to speak. Indicators of grooming behaviours include an adult:
• Attempting to keep a special relationship with a student a secret;
• Manoeuvring to get or insisting on uninterrupted time alone with a student;
• Buying a student gifts;
• Insisting on physical affection such as hugging, wrestling or tickling even when the student clearly does not want it;
• Being overly interested in the sexual development of a student;
• Taking a lot of photos of a student;
• Engaging in inappropriate or excessive physical contact with a student;
• Sharing alcohol or drugs with a student;
• Making inappropriate comments about a student’s appearance or excessive flattery;
• Using inappropriate pet names;
• Making jokes or innuendo of a sexual nature;
• Making obscene gestures or using obscene language;
• Sending correspondence of a personal nature via any medium;
• Trying to elicit a student’s phone number or contact details;
• Inviting, allowing, or encouraging students to attend a staff member’s home;
• Entering change rooms or toilets occupied by students when supervision is not required or appropriate;
• Communicating with anyone in charge of a child with the intention of facilitating the child’s involvement in sexual conduct; or
• Photographing, audio recording, or filming students via any medium without authorisation or having parental consent to do so.
• Inviting or accepting an invitation to join a student on a social media network.
• Taking a student/s to the movies, dinner etc.
Grooming behaviour is repeated behaviour.
Certain behaviours or acts, will not in isolation constitute grooming behaviour. However, where there is a repeating pattern of indicative behaviour, or several incidents of indicative behaviour, it may constitute grooming behaviour.
For example, the grooming behaviours listed above, in isolation, will usually not constitute grooming behaviour but when repeated or escalated over a period of time, may be reportable as grooming behaviour.
Where the above acts or behaviours do not constitute grooming behaviour, they may be a violation of the Staff Code of Conduct, or may amount to professional misconduct, and if so should be reported to the Principal or Chairman of the Board.
What is not grooming behaviour?
Not all physical contact between a student and a staff member or any person engaged by the School to provide services to children, including a volunteer, will be inappropriate and /or an indicator of possible grooming behaviour.
The following physical contact with students is not grooming behaviour:
• Administration of first aid;
• Supporting students who have hurt themselves;
• Non – intrusive gestures to comfort a student who is experiencing grief, loss or distress, such as a hand on the upper arm or upper back; and
• Non – intrusive touching i.e. shaking a student’s hand or a pat on the back to congratulate a student.
Reporting grooming behaviours
If you have formed a belief on reasonable grounds that grooming behaviour is occurring, or have witnessed repeated indicators of grooming behaviour, a report should be made to the Principal.
If the matter involves the Principal, staff should report suspicions or beliefs to the Chairman of the Board.
All staff are aware that grooming behaviour committed by a staff member will constitute a breach of the Staff Code of Conduct, or may amount to professional misconduct. Any concern about whether a staff member has breached the Code of Conduct or compromised their position should be reported to the Principal.
Managing a student’s disclosure of grooming
Where a student discloses information about grooming behaviour or behaviour that is indicative of grooming to a staff member, the staff member will follow the same management of disclosure guidelines as in the Mandatory Reporting of Child Sexual Abuse Policy.
Where the student discloses grooming behaviour by directing the staff member to electronic communications such as email, internet chat rooms, SMS messages or real time audio/video between the student and the adult who is the subject of the allegation, the staff member should report the matter to the Principal or Chairman of the Board. In these circumstances, appropriate steps will be taken to preserve the electronic evidence of the grooming behaviours that have been displayed.
What will happen if I make a report?
Reports that are made honestly and without recklessness to the School will not constitute a breach of confidence, professional ethics or a rule of professional conduct.
Staff should feel safe to report all concerns including those that involve a fellow staff member.
The identity of the reporter can be protected if necessary, however, it may be disclosed in the event of a criminal or civil investigation.
The reporting staff member will not be civilly or criminally liable for providing information where the report is made honestly and without recklessness.
Where grooming behaviours are reported, the school will first act to ensure the safety of the student who is the alleged victim of the grooming behaviour.
The School will then notify the staff member who is the subject of the report and provide an opportunity to respond to the allegations, in accordance with the principles of natural justice. If the allegation involves the Principal, the report should be made to the Chairman of the Board.
The School will conduct an internal investigation. If the allegations are of a serious nature and require further investigation, the School may refer the matter to the Police and relevant child abuse reporting phone lines.
Any relevant evidence should be preserved.
The School may suspend the staff member while the allegation is being investigated.
Where a staff member suspects grooming behaviour but does not have enough information to make a report, they should keep written and dated records of their observations and concerns until they are prepared to make a report. It should be noted that allegations of grooming are taken very seriously by the School and dishonest reports will result in disciplinary action.
All verbal and written communications regarding child protection matters [including notes of observations, meetings and telephone calls] must be properly documented.
The documented records should include dates, times and enough detail to record key conversations, especially those relating to a student’s disclosure.
The records of child protection must be stored securely.
For the purpose of any current or future internal or external investigations into grooming behaviour allegations, the School maintains records of any and all evidence or notes relating to the allegations made. This may include:
• Notes taken during a meeting with a staff member who is the subject of a grooming allegation;
• Reports made by a staff member about the behaviour of a colleague;
• Notes taken during a disclosure by a student of grooming behaviour;
• Copies of any reports made to the Police or regulatory bodies about the matter; and
• Digital copies of correspondence between the student and the staff member who is the subject of the allegation, if the allegation include claims of inappropriate online activity.
Staff who have access to information regarding child abuse, including grooming behaviour, must keep such information confidential and secure and must not disclose this information unless required to do so as part of an ongoing investigation, by law, or when it is necessary to disclose the reasons for removing a child from a class or activity where the grooming behaviour occurred. This should only be done where absolutely necessary.
Staff must not provide undertakings that are inconsistent with their reporting obligations under this policy. For example, as with other forms of abuse, students who disclose that they have been subject to grooming behaviours may attempt to elicit a promise that a staff member not tell anyone about the disclosure. Staff members must not make this promise. Students and any other parties who become involved in the investigation (this may include other students) should be informed of the reporting process and be requested to maintain confidentiality.
Inappropriate disclosure of confidential information will be subject to disciplinary action.
All workers are responsible to ensure that:
• Reports of grooming behaviour or repeated incidents of indicators of grooming behaviour are made as soon as practicable;
• If they have a reasonable belief that grooming behaviour has been committed by an adult against a child they must disclose that information to the Principal or the Police; and
• If a person in a position of authority at the school becomes aware that an adult associated with the School poses a substantial risk of engaging in grooming behaviour with a student/s, they must take immediate action to ensure that the student/s are protected from that risk;
• If they believe that a child has been or is likely to be the victim of a sexual offence, including grooming behaviours, that they make a report to the Principal or the Police;
• Confidentiality is maintained throughout the process;
• Immediate support is given to students making disclosures;
• Records of all verbal and written communication are maintained and stored securely; and
• All staff participate in training.
This policy is implemented through a combination of:
• Risk identification and reporting procedures;
• The provision of counselling services;
• Staff training;
• Effective communication and incident notification procedures;
• Effective record keeping procedures; and
• Initiation of corrective actions where necessary
Discipline for breach of policy
Where a staff member breaches this policy Hope Christian College will take disciplinary action, including in the case of serious breaches, summary dismissal.
Mandatory Reporting of Child Sexual Abuse Policy
Working with Children Checks Policy
Staff Code of Conduct