The purpose of this policy is to ensure schools understand how to identify and respond to:
- incidents, suspicions or disclosures of student sexual offending
- problem sexual behaviour in children under 10
- If school staff witness an incident, receive a disclosure or form a suspicion that a student is a victim of student sexual offending and/or a student has engaged in sexual offending, you must follow the .
- School staff must keep clear and comprehensive notes about incidents, disclosures and allegations of student sexual offending.
- Schools should call the DET Incident Support and Operations Centre on for support.
What is student sexual offending?
Student sexual offending means sexual behaviour by a student 10 years and over which may amount to a sexual offence. A sexual offence includes rape, sexual assault, indecent acts and other unwanted sexualised touching.
Under Victorian law:
- Children between 12 to 15 can only consent to sexual activity with another child no more than 2 years older (therefore sexual contact by a student with a child outside of this age range may be student sexual offending).
- For a person to consent to sexual activity, they must have the capacity to understand the context and possible consequences of the act. Therefore sexual contact by a student involving a person with a cognitive impairment or affected by alcohol or other drugs may be student sexual offending.
How to respond to student sexual offending
School staff must act by following the as soon as they witness an incident, receive a disclosure or form a suspicion that a student is a victim of student sexual offending and/or a student has engaged in sexual offending.
If staff are unsure whether a behaviour (or suspected behaviour) is student sexual offending you should seek further advice and follow the Four Critical Actions.
Staff must also act if they form a reasonable belief that a student’s sexual offending is a result of child abuse by following the:
What is problem sexual behaviour in children under 10?
Most children and young people are likely to engage in some level of age-appropriate sexual behaviour as part of typical development. Research identifies a continuum of sexual behaviours from common sexual play through to very concerning sexual behaviour.
Children with problem sexual behaviour means children less than 10 years of age demonstrating developmentally inappropriate and/or aggressive sexual behaviour.
Problem sexual behaviour in children under 10 years may include:
- frequent, repeated behaviour, for example, compulsive masturbation
- sexual behaviour between children who do not know each other well
- high-frequency occurrences of sexual behaviour that interfere with normal childhood activities
- sexual behaviour associated with emotional distress
- sexual behaviour between children of different ages and developmental levels
- aggressive, forced and/or coerced interaction between children
- behaviour that does not stop once the child is told to stop, or occurs in secrecy
- behaviour that causes harm to the child or other children
Research suggests that only a small number of children develop problem sexual behaviour. Staff need to consider whether the behaviour is abnormal, whether the child should be referred for specialist assistance, and when to report an incident to the appropriate agencies. You may need to seek professional advice in the first instance from the DET Incident Support and Operations Centre on .
How to respond to problem sexual behaviour in children under 10
For all students who are under 10 years of age and who engage in problem sexual behaviour, school staff should consider:
- consulting with wellbeing professionals (including student support services) to support the student displaying problem sexual behaviours
- convening a student support group
- developing a student support plan to determine and document support strategies for students displaying problem sexual behaviours and strategies to maintain the safety of other students and school community members
- whether the child may be the victim of child abuse and the problem sexual behaviour may be a physical or behavioural indicator that this may be occurring
Problem sexual behaviour in a child does not necessarily indicate that the child has been sexually abused. However if staff form a reasonable belief that the child is being abused within the family or community, they must report to Child Protection and / or Victoria Police if their parents/carers are unable or unwilling to protect the child from that abuse. For more information, refer to the Department's policy on .
Communicate with parents
If staff suspect that a student under 10 years of age has engaged in problem sexual behaviour, the principal (or delegate) must communicate with parents of children involved (both the child displaying the problem sexual behaviour and any other impacted children), unless there are reasonable grounds for believing that this may put the child at risk . To do this:
- consult with DET Incident Support and Operations Centre on
- consult with Child Protection and Victoria Police, if you have reported the behaviour to them as a potential indicator of abuse
- advise the parents/carers of the student displaying the behaviour (unless there are reasonable grounds for believing that this may put the child at risk). In many instances, the parents/carers can assist school staff to ensure that the child is aware that their behaviour and conduct is not appropriate in a school environment
- notify the parents/carers of the students (preferably in person or via phone) who have been impacted by the problem sexual behaviour, noting that there may be high levels of distress and concern
- offer all impacted children (both the child displaying the problem sexual behaviour and any children impacted) and their families school-based support, or a referral to external support services
What else do you need to know?
Document the incident and your actions
Staff must keep clear and comprehensive notes relating to incidents, disclosures and allegations of student sexual offending. It is strongly recommended that staff use the following template and store securely:
Duty of care obligations
School staff must take all reasonable steps to protect a student under their care from reasonably foreseeable risks of harm. Schools must have systems in place to adequately supervise students to meet their duty of care obligations.
For student sexual behaviours, it is important to remember that staff have a duty of care towards all students involved, including the alleged victim, the child alleged to have engaged in the offending behaviour and any other students who may have been affected.
Sexual offending, includes unwanted sexualised touching, indecent acts, sexual assault and rape by a child over 10 years of age.
Problem sexual behaviour
Developmentally inappropriate and/or aggressive sexual behaviour by a child under 10 years of age.
Reviewed 03 June 2021