As many of our munchkins return to school for 2022, navigating ‘Covid Safe’ restrictions can be confusing, complicated and at times very confronting. Today we will address five myths circulating in the Victorian Education system to arm you with the facts and confidence you need to ensure your child’s rights are protected and respected.
1/“Parents are not permitted onto school grounds”.
While there are some restrictions in place around visitors and parents entering school buildings, there are currently no guidelines from the Dept of Health or the Dept of Education that prohibit parents from entering school grounds.
If your school is restricting entry onto school grounds you can dispute this with the principal and show evidence that there are no legislative requirements to do so.
2/“Children aged 8+ must provide evidence if they are unable to wear a mask”.
The current guidelines in the School Operations Guide (via Dept of Education) state the following:
There are lawful reasons for not wearing a face mask, including for staff and students who are unable to wear a face mask due to the nature of their disability, medical or a mental health condition. Parent/carers of a student/s who meet the criteria for an exception should provide their approval in writing for their child/ren to not wear a mask to the school.
There is no requirement for a letter for a medical exception for not wearing a face mask from a medical practitioner.
It is crucial for parents to understand the point, that they do not need to ask the schools permission for their child not to wear a mask. Parents give permission for their child not to wear a mask.
3/“Parent teacher meetings and Student Support Group Meetings must be held remotely.”
While there is guidance in place for schools to hold staff meetings and parent teacher conferences remotely for the first four weeks of term, there is also the option for principals to use their discretion. A principal may approve an onsite meeting if necessary, although it may be held outdoors in the circumstance that a person in attendance does not meet vaccine requirements.
4/“Schools must follow the advice from the Department of Education”
While the Victorian Government is using its new Pandemic legislation (The Public Health and Wellbeing Bill) to impose restrictions upon workers in schools, it is the Department of Education under advice from the Department of Health that have stated in their COVID-19 Vaccinations – Visitors and Volunteers on School Sites Policy:
“if a volunteer or visitor who does not meet the vaccination requirements becomes aggressive or refuses to leave the school grounds the principal should direct students away from the area and immediately call Victoria Police to seek their assistance to remove them from the grounds”
At Freedom Keepers, we would like to know:
- Does the Department of Education have the authority to make ‘laws’ or are they only providing ‘recommendations and ‘guidance’?
– Under what legislation would a police officer have the authority to remove a visitor or volunteer from school grounds?
- Would any of these ‘guidelines’ stand up to scrutiny in a court of law?
- What are the consequences for parents or principals who do not follow the current guidelines?
5/“Classroom conversations about masks, vaccines and Covid testing is normal”
While Covid is very topical at the moment and consuming many minds and conversations, our education systems have a duty of care to protect the physical, emotional and mental wellbeing of all students. All medical data is private and confidential information and is protected by law. We would do well to remind our schools and leadership teams of their responsibility to create a culture of inclusivity and respect from the top down.
The Schools Operation Guide states:
There are many organisations doing great work in the space of advocacy within our education system. If you would like further support or information, please visit:
Skip Australia https://skipaustralia.org/wp/
Advocate Me https://www.advocateme.com.au/
Parents with Questions https://parentswithquestions.com.au/
As parents who choose to access the schooling system, we find ourselves assuming a responsibility to encourage and remind our schools of their duty of care and responsibility towards providing safe inclusive environments.
Let’s keep reminding society that school staff are not part of the doctor / parent / child relationship. And that open and transparent relationships will always be conducive to the best outcomes for our children which is the focus after all.