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Equal Opportunity and Human Rights — Students

Policy

The purpose of this policy is to ensure that schools comply with legal obligations to provide inclusive educational environments where students are treated with respect and dignity, regardless of their attributes.

Summary

  • Schools are required to comply with a number of legislative obligations that relate to equal opportunity and human rights
  • It is unlawful for schools to discriminate against students on the basis of certain protected attributes (for example, race, religious belief or activity, disability, sex, gender identity or sexual orientation) – refer to ‘Definitions’ below for a complete list of protected attributes
  • All schools must have a local policy (for example, a Diversity and Inclusion Policy) which explains that discrimination will not be tolerated. The School Policy Templates Portal has a template Diversity and Inclusion Policy (login required) available for schools to download.
  • A range of resources and programs are available to support students and schools to prevent and address bullying, racism and other forms of discrimination.  These are available in the Resources tab.

Details

The Department values the human rights of every student.

Schools must comply with federal and state anti-discrimination laws and the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities 2016 (Vic).

Schools must take steps to create a school community and learning environment where all students are welcomed, accepted and treated equitably and with respect regardless of their backgrounds or attributes such as race, religious belief or activity, gender identity, disability or sexual orientation so that they can participate, achieve and thrive at school. For a full list of protected attributes, refer to the ’Definitions’ section below.

Schools:

  • must not unlawfully discriminate when deciding who should be enrolled as a student and on what terms
  • must not unlawfully discriminate against a student by denying or limiting access to any benefit provided by the school or by subjecting a student to any other detriment because of the student’s attribute
  • must not unlawfully discriminate against a student by expelling them because of the student’s attribute — refer to Expulsions for more information
  • must make reasonable adjustments for students with disabilities who require adjustments to enable them to participate in their education and other school activities (for example, school sports, concerts and other events) on the same basis as their peers without a disability
  • must take steps to provide an educational setting that is safe for all students and which is free from bullying, unlawful discrimination, sexual harassment, disability harassment (such as hurtful or humiliating comments or actions about a person’s disability) or victimisation
  • must acknowledge and respond to the diverse needs, identities and strengths of all students
  • must encourage empathy and fairness towards others
  • must challenge stereotypes that promote prejudicial and biased behaviours and practices
  • must create a learning environment for all students that acknowledges, respects and values different cultures and identities including Koorie cultures
  • must respond to complaints and allegations appropriately and ensure that students are not victimised for making a complaint or asserting their rights.
  • must have a local policy (for example, a Diversity and Inclusion Policy) which explains that discrimination and other related unlawful behaviours will not be tolerated. The School Policy Templates Portal has a template Diversity and Inclusion Policy available for schools to download.
  • must act compatibly with human rights and give proper consideration to human rights when making decisions (refer to 'Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities' for more information below).

Bullying, unlawful discrimination, sexual harassment, disability harassment, vilification, victimisation and other forms of inappropriate behaviour

Bullying, unlawful discrimination, sexual harassment, disability harassment, victimisation, vilification and other forms of inappropriate behaviour targeting individual students or groups because of their attributes must not be tolerated. Schools must take appropriate measures, consistent with the Student Engagement Policy and the Bullying Prevention and Response Policy to respond to students who demonstrate these behaviours.

Students with disability

Schools have a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate students with disabilities. A reasonable adjustment is a measure or action taken to assist students with disability to participate in their education on the same basis as their peers without a disability. Reasonable adjustments will be made for students with disability in consultation with the student, their parents or carers, their teachers and, if appropriate, their treating practitioners. Schools must support students with disability, and consult with students, in accordance with Department policy including Students with Disability, Student Support Groups, Individual Education Plans (IEPs), Student Support Services, Behaviour — Students, Enrolment and Duty of Care.

Supporting students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds

Education plays a critical role in promoting social cohesion and building resilience in communities. Schools provide an environment where respectful relationships, acceptance of diversity, knowledge of other cultures and an understanding of global issues and events can be developed.

The Intercultural Capability Curriculum must be taught in Victorian government schools from Foundation to Year 10 to build awareness and respect for cultural diversity. Refer to the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority website for more details.

Schools must offer interpreting and translation services to parents and carers who have limited or no English language skills to communicate key information about their child’s education. Refer to the Department's Interpreting and Translation Services Policy.

Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities

Every Victorian is equal before the law and is entitled to equal and effective protection against discrimination, and to enjoy their human rights without discrimination.

Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities contains 20 basic rights that promote and protect the values of freedom, respect, equality, and dignity.

Public authorities, including all Victorian government schools, must act compatibly with the human rights in the Charter. This applies to actions undertaken in day-to-day work with students and families.

Schools must also give proper consideration to human rights when making decisions. This is known as the ‘procedural’ obligation for a public authority. Proper consideration to human rights must be undertaken before a decision is made which may impact on people’s human rights. Limitations on human rights, for example to protect the safety of others, should be reasonable, justifiable and proportionate.

More information about the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities can be found on the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission website.

Definitions

Antisemitism
Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities. For further information refer to: International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

Attribute
A personal characteristic that is protected by State or Commonwealth anti-discrimination legislation. These include: race, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious belief or activity, political belief or activity, age, intersex status, physical features, pregnancy, carer and parental status, breastfeeding, marital or relationship status, lawful sexual activity, employment activity, industrial activity, expunged homosexual conviction or personal association with anyone who is identified with reference to any protected attribute.

Direct discrimination
Treating or proposing to treat someone unfavourably because of that person’s protected attribute.

Indirect discrimination
Imposing or proposing to impose an unreasonable requirement, condition or practice that has or is likely to disadvantage a person or group of people with a protected attribute.

Sexual harassment
Unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature towards another person which could reasonably be expected to make that other person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated. It may be physical, verbal, visual or written.

Unlawful discrimination
Direct or indirect discrimination

Vilification
Conduct that incites hatred towards or revulsion or severe ridicule of a person or group of people on the basis of their race or religion.

Victimisation
Subjecting a person or threatening to subject them to detrimental treatment because they (or their associate) has made an allegation of discrimination or harassment on the basis of a protected attribute (or asserted their rights under relevant policies or law).

For students

For staff

Relevant legislation

Contacts

For advice on any issues relating to human rights and discrimination law, Victorian government school principals can contact the Legal Division:

Legal Division
03 9637 3146
legal.services@education.vic.gov.au

Other contacts relevant to this topic are:

Inclusive Education Division
education.for.all@education.vic.gov.au

Safe Schools
03 9637 3699 or 03 9637 3690
safe.schools@education.vic.gov.au

Religious or racial discrimination
Report religious or racial discrimination and abuse in schools hotline

Department policy on equal opportunity and anti-discrimination in schools covering legal obligations under the Equal Opportunity Act and other legislation, with resources and links to support schools

Reviewed 14 June 2021

Policy last updated

2 June 2021

Scope

  • Schools

Contact

Wellbeing, Health and Engagement Division There are multiple contacts for this topic. Refer to the contacts heading at the bottom of the page

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