Legal & Risk Management conference a must for school leaders at the National Education Summit


Over the past decade, rapid economic, social, technological and cultural changes have generated new pressures and possibilities for school systems and the people who work for them. Legal risks at schools are now in the spotlight and relate to the rights, obligations and responsibilities of various groups such as the student body, teaching staff, school leaders, administrators, governing bodies, parent groups and volunteers.

The upcoming National Education Summit (Friday 31 August – Saturday 1 September) has programmed a the Legal & Risk Management Frameworks.

Tailored to Principals and School Leaders, the conference offers an opportunity to hear valuable advice on how to manager risks and legal issues in an educational setting.

Five key issues will be presented by lawyers from Piper Alderman including: managing staff, managing legal risks, sexting in schools, governance issues for school boards and councils and Intellectual Property.

In the news recently there have been several principals and school boards forced to grapple with a rapidly evolving societal and governance landscape.

A key issue is that, as most schools are incorporated entities, directors are liable for any breach of their fiduciary or legislative obligations.

Nowadays, when time poor parents and vocal alumni turn to social media to voice their strong opinions, a delicate situation can turn toxic – and reputations that have taken decades to establish can be tarnished in days, or even hours.

Speaking at the summit will be Jane Kupsch, Partner at Piper Alderman specialising in dispute resolution and commercial litigation who will shed light on legal risks and when it’s time to seek advice.

Schools are large and small, they have different legal forms, can be denominational or not, and operate within government and non- government frameworks.

Irrespective of the structure or nature of a school, there are some important and common underlying themes and duties for governing bodies.

However, there is no “cookie cutter” model for governance; the individual approach of a particular governing body should be sympathetic to the size and nature of the school over which it has stewardship. In the summit’s Governance Issues for School Boards & Councils seminar, Piper Alderman Partner Simon Venus will look at the key sources of governance for school governing bodies, as well as statutory and other duties and through a series of case studies, tease out some governance issues which have presented boards and their chairs.

When a teacher is guilty of misconduct, there is a strong case of dismissal. However what happens when a teacher is unfit due to consistent underperformance?

The principal is responsible for facilitating the professional growth of staff through student welfare and assessment, curriculum development, classroom management and teaching skills, with dismissal as a valid final option.

Principals and other school leaders often feel unsure about how to deal with teacher underperformance, as distinct from misconduct.

They think that under-performance is hard to prove and they fear the legal consequences of dismissing an unsatisfactory teacher.

The result in many cases is that nothing is done and the problem persists.

David Ey, Partner at Piper Alderman has extensive experience advising schools on constitutions, board governance, general commercial arrangements and service agreements and will be at the summit illuminating best practice for schools dealing with teacher underperformance, including to the point of a dismissal where necessary.

In his session on Performance Managing and Dismissing Teachers in Schools, cases decided by industrial tribunals will be examined, to give participants an understanding of when a performance-related dismissal is likely to be held to be fair or unfair.

Sexting can lead to serious bullying incidents within the school. These images can be shared without the consent of the person they depict, or a person may be subject to threats relating to the distribution of intimate images.

According to the Criminal Code Act 1995, which is a federal law, it’s illegal to use the internet or mobile phone to send, receive, store or possess child pornography and also makes it illegal to even ask for an image of a sexual nature from someone under the age of 18.

This also means that even if, under state law, it’s legal for two 16 year olds to have sex, federal law makes it illegal for them to send naked selfies to each other, even if neither feels they’re done anything wrong.

Chris Hartigan, Principal at Piper Alderman will be at the summit giving guidance on the mandatory reporting obligations of schools and how schools can undertake investigations and impose disciplinary sanctions while criminal investigations may still be running parallel.

To register for tickets to the National Education Summit head to (group bookings available)

Event Info:

What: National Education Summit
Where: Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre, 1 Convention Centre Pl, South Wharf VIC 3006
When: Friday 31 August – September 1, 2018
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