Rebuilding relationships with persons subject to an order
Following the expiry of a school community safety order (order), it is important for the school to support the re-engagement of a parent as part of the school community while considering the health and safety of school staff who have been affected by the parent’s behaviour. Principals must make reasonable efforts, in good faith, to re-establish and strengthen the relationship between the school and the person who was subject to the order.
Schools should avoid assumptions that a person will continue to engage in the harmful behaviours that resulted in an order being issued and provide them with a genuine opportunity to re-establish the relationship.
Rebuilding the relationship while an order is in place
Schools do not have to wait until an order is no longer in place to start re-engaging a parent. An order may specify reasonable and appropriate actions that the person subject to the order can take to facilitate repair of the relationship while it is in force.
For example, an order can specify that the person to whom it applies may undergo mediation with the affected school staff member through the department’s independent conflict resolution provider, Converge (staff login required). This may be appropriate where an affected school staff member feels safe to meet with the person face-to-face or to otherwise participate in a process that re-instigates contact with the person while an order is in place.
The nature of the mediation will depend on the situation and the parties involved, but may involve:
- all parties meeting (virtually or face-to-face) in a formal setting with an independent facilitator
- facilitated discussion between the principal (on behalf of the affected staff member) and the person subject to the order in an informal setting
- the principal of the school receiving counsel.
It is then open to the authorised person to consider whether completion of such actions is enough to revoke the order. Failure to attempt or complete such actions does not result in any penalty to the person subject to the order.
Steps for re-engaging a person following the expiration of an order
1. Contact the senior education improvement leader for support
The authorised person will receive an email reminder from eduSafe Plus 3 weeks prior to the expiration of an ongoing order. The authorised person should contact their senior education improvement leader (SEIL) for strategies and support to re-engage the parent. They may refer them to supports provided by:
- a community liaison officer
- the Independent Office for School Dispute , which can facilitate the repairing of a relationship following a dispute
- the Employee Wellbeing Response team (Employee.Wellbeing.Response.Team@education.vic.gov.au), which connects schools with training, supports and services they need for complex employee safety and wellbeing issues
- Converge (staff login required), the department’s independent conflict resolution provider.
2. Consider strategies to repair the relationship
Authorised persons should consider using strategies and services to repair relationships with the persons subject to an order, considering:
- the severity of the harmful behaviour that resulted in an order being issued
- the willingness of the staff member(s) affected by the harmful behaviour to re-engage with the person
- the level of risk the strategy presents to the safety of the staff member(s)
- the benefit of the strategy to furthering the educational opportunities of the student whose parent or carer was issued with an order
- how successful such a strategy may be in re-engaging the parent or carer and advancing the child’s education.
For example, if the person who was recently subject to an order physically assaulted a staff member and the staff member feels unsafe meeting with the person face-to-face, a mediation may not be an appropriate strategy. If the person subject to the order chooses not to re-engage with a particular staff member, the authorised person should seek further advice from the relevant area team.
Possible strategies include:
- when an order is to be revoked or set to expire, seeking input from the person subject to the order on how they would like to reset the relationship moving forward
- meeting with, calling or sending a letter or email to the person to re-engage them back into the school community and discuss the suggested topics under Step 4
- inviting department staff (such as the SEIL or community liaison officer) to attend initial meetings with the person for support
- asking religious or community leaders and/or senior school leaders or board members to help support and navigate communications between the school and families
- encouraging the person subject to the order to seek support from community organisations or advocates and inviting them along to any meetings or correspond on their behalf.
In some cases, the principal and/or the authorised person may determine that directly re-engaging the person who has been subject to an order may result in escalated or aggravated behaviour and a safety risk to staff or the principal. The most appropriate option in such circumstances may be to avoid direct engagement upon expiry of an order and assess the situation against the OHS Risk Matrix in consultation with the school’s health and safety representative to determine an approach forward.
3. Build staff capability in conflict management
Staff may feel more confident about the re-integration of a person subject to an order if they are provided with training and capability building opportunities to manage conflict and challenging behaviours.
Training and resources that provide practical strategies and tools to manage conflict can be found in Effective communication with parents and , including the Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership's Navigating Conflict .
4. Keep the focus of discussions on the child’s education
Re-engagement efforts are likely to be more successful if the school and the parent maintain a focus on supporting the child’s learning and wellbeing.
Suggested topics for discussion include:
- the child’s progress at school, their learning and wellbeing needs, and further support that could be provided
- shared expectations for respectful behaviour, using the school’s statement of values, school philosophy or the department’s Respectful Behaviours within the School Community as the basis for such discussions
- respectful ways of communicating that would be most conducive to having a positive relationship with the school and ultimately support the needs of the child
- agreeing on ways for the parent to raise constructive and respectful feedback, such as through the school’s complaints policy or the department’s Complaints – Parents policy (a quick reference guide is available for parents and carers to understand how to raise a concern or complaint: Parent concerns and complaints ).
Further guidance for developing positive and meaningful relationships with parents and families can be found in:
- Work-Related Violence in Schools policy
- Family engagement in learning resource – for parents and carers (staff login required).
5. Access mental health and wellbeing support
Re-engaging a person who has behaved harmfully in the past may be challenging for staff and may negatively impact their mental health. Staff are encouraged to access the mental health and wellbeing supports and services reflected in Psychological safety and wellbeing support for school staff.
Reviewed 10 July 2022