reposted from a story by Chief Court Reporter Sean Fewster adelaidenow May 26, 201311:30PM
THE Education Department has turned its back on a boy who was allegedly sexually abused by a female student, saying the incident was “not reasonably foreseeable”.
In a letter obtained exclusively by The Advertiser, the department denies liability for the alleged abuse at an eastern suburbs primary school during Term 1, 2011.
The department does not deny that the incident occurred, but says it was “the first of its kind” and was therefore not something its staff or policies could have prevented.
The boy’s frustrated parents want the department to pay for their son’s medical and psychological treatment after it refused to provide any counselling for him.
They have taken their case to former Supreme Court Justice Bruce Debelle’s independent inquiry, but fear the department will ignore his recommendations.
“The department’s response has left me confused and angry, and I don’t think (its letter) is any excuse,” the boy’s mother said yesterday.
“Unforeseeable or not, first of its kind or not, this still happened on their school’s grounds.”
In January, The Advertiser reported claims the boy, 5, was sexually assaulted by the girl, 7, in the toilets of their school in Term 1, 2011.
The boy claims the girl and her brother, 4, prevented him leaving the toilets and punched him when he refused to expose himself.
The younger boy was visiting his sister at the school at the time.
Neither child is facing prosecution because under state law, children under the age of 10 are considered incapable of criminal acts.
Although the alleged incident was reported to Families SA, the Education Department did not provide counselling and said it would not unless his parents launched private legal proceedings.
They did so, seeking compensation for their son’s psychological and paediatric expenses.
They also asked the department to reimburse the cost of new uniforms and school fees, because they have moved their son into the private education system to ensure his safety.
Last month, their lawyer received a letter from the Crown Solicitor’s Office.
“The (Education) Department has concluded the investigation of this matter and denies any liability with respect to your client’s claim,” the letter says.
“The department’s duty to your client was to take reasonable steps to prevent injury from foreseeable risks … (this incident) was not reasonably foreseeable in the circumstances. It was the first of its kind and the children were known socially to each other.”
Yesterday, the alleged victim’s mother said she had made a submission to the Debelle inquiry into school sex abuse.
The inquiry was commissioned when it was revealed parents were not told for two years about the 2010 assault of a student by an after-school care worker.
“Mr Debelle was very matter-of-fact but very nice,” the boy’s mother said. “I think he will come out with a good result, but wonder what impact it will have on the department.”
She said the department’s attitude was frustrating.
“(My son) is doing better, but that’s only because we got him the counselling the department wouldn’t provide,” she said.
“It doesn’t seem to want to do anything to help – we just want it to take responsibility.”
Yesterday, a spokeswoman for Education Minister Jennifer Rankine said: “As further legal action is possible neither the minister nor department can comment on this matter.”
On Thursday, Ms Rankine said Mr Debelle’s report was “imminent