Victoria’s principals will be given greater decision-making powers when it comes to student expulsions under sweeping new reforms.
The reforms, announced by Victorian Education Minister, James Merlino, over the weekend follow reports last week of a high school principal who resigned in fear for his students after his decision to expel a student who made threats with a knife was overturned.
In a statement provided to The Educator, Merlino said recent events had shown that “immediate reform” was needed to the Department’s expulsion process.
“That’s why we’re overhauling the appeals process so that principals and students, including victims, have a voice,” Merlino said.
“For the first time, principals will be able to put their view forward and explain their decision throughout this process. This is a change that needed to happen.”
Merlino said that as the Minister for Education and as a parent, it is his expectation that the safety of Victoria’s students is the top priority.
“That is why we are making these significant changes,” he said.
Currently, before a principal expels a student, there is a behaviour review conference that must take place.
However, the impact on victims will now have to be considered at that conference and there now will be an opportunity, when appropriate, for alternative dispute resolution at this early stage of the process.
The existing review panel for student appeals will now have an independent member added to it and will have to hear from the expelled student and principal who will outline the impact on the school community including any victims. This is a departure from the paper-based appeals that are currently conducted.
If an expulsion is overturned at the expulsion review stage, principals will now be able to appeal that decision with assistance from a new Independent Panel, consisting of experts relevant to the specific case.
This will allow principals to outline concerns regarding safety for students at the school and ensure the right decision is made.