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Conducting Workplace Investigations in schools – 2018

Investigations are now a common feature of life in schools. It is important to take allegations seriously as they may be well founded and investigation of them may save children and others great harm. David Ford’s paper examines the requirements for best practice investigations

Keyboard Punches: a School’s Duty of Care in the Domain of Cyberbullying - 2018

This paper, by Sarah Heydon begins by examining what cyberbullying is, how a school’s liability arises and what consequences a school may face. The paper then turns to consider the liability of Internet Service Providers (ISPs), the cyberbully’s parents and the cyberbully themselves. The paper concludes by examining what steps schools should take to prevent and respond to cyberbullying. 

Enrolment Contracts Update - 2018

The enrolment contract is the fundamental source of the obligations that a school has to its parents and that they have to the school. It is also an ideal document for the school to demonstrate that it seeks to be a child safe institution and for parents to agree to support this. In this paper, David Ford considers the steps that lead to the formation of the enrolment contract and the importance of ensuring that marketing the school does not involve misleading and deceptive conduct. He also considers the impact of disability and sex discrimination legislation and how to deal with the payment of fees. 

Managing the Risks in Off-Campus Activities - 2017

Outdoor education provides an opportunity for children to use initiative and intelligence in community to grow in independence and in an understanding of themselves. 

In this paper, David Ford examines how schools and teachers can manage the risks associated with off-campus activities.

Safety at School for the Transgender Student - 2017

Download David Ford's paper Safety at School for the Transgender Student, which considers a school’s duty of care to transgender students and the obligations under the Federal Sex Discrimination Act. This paper also contains a comparative study of the law in the USA, Canada, the UK, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Students - 2016

This paper by David Ford considers how schools and teachers can respond to the growing number of young people identifying as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Intersex and what reasonable steps should be taken to fulfil their duty of care to them. The paper covers such issues as bullying and harassment, how Australian and NSW legislation about unlawful discrimination affects a school’s way of dealing with these students, and a brief word about privacy.


Download your free copy of David Ford's paper "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Students


Managing Conflicts with Parents - 2016

Whenever conflicts arise, schools need to attempt to resolve them whether the parents have a genuine grievance or not. However, even before any conflict arises, schools should seek ways to avoid and minimise potential conflicts.

This paper by Nathan Croot outlines ways in which a school can attempt to avoid conflicts with parents and what to do when these conflicts arise.

Image of two people fighting



Download your free copy of Nathan Croot's paper "Managing Conflicts with Parents".

  Sexual Abuse in the Course of Employment - 2016

Can a school be vicariously liable for the criminal conduct of one of its employees?

This paper looks at a South Australian case (A, DC v Prince Alfred College Inc) where the Court of Appeal found the College was liable for sexual abuse perpetrated by a boarding housemaster.



Download a FREE copy of the paper


Unlawful Discrimination and Grooming

A decision by a Victorian school to terminate the employment of a teacher proved costly - Pearson v Martin [2015] VSC 696. The dismissal took place after it came to the school’s attention that the teacher had begun a sexual relationship with a former student of the school.

But on what grounds had the teacher's employment been terminated? For grooming a student or having sex with an adult former student?

This paper explores the case  in detail, giving schools several points to help them navigate these issues and looks at how "grooming" is defined by several organisations.



Download a FREE copy of the paper


 The Principal and the Board:  An Essential Governance Dynamic - 2016

Paper by David Ford which considers the relationship between the principal and the board from beginning to end, particularly from an employment perspective - and the inevitable governance issues which arise.

David's thesis is that the principal’s employment contract plays a significant part in providing a solid framework for the board/principal relationship to develop and thrive. He focusses on the elements of a best practice contract. The law dictates some of these elements; good governance suggests others.

Download the paper here


School Sport and the Law Paper - 2015

From one of our readers: "Fantastic read!! Thank you. Some very valuable information for those of us involved in Sport in schools. It is great to have the 'facts' from a legal professional".

Paper by David Ford which examines the law’s response to a variety of practical situations involving school sport, drawing upon legal precedent not only from Australia but also from England and the United States. David considers the school’s duty of care as well as that of coaches, referees, players, parents and volunteers. He considers the current issues surrounding skiing, concussion, privacy, racial discrimination, and drug testing.

School Counsellors, Privacy and Confidentiality - 2014

by David Ford & Nathan Croot

To what extent are conversations and other communications between school counsellors and their clients (who are, in the main, their students) "confidential"? Students need to feel absolutely relaxed and confident that they can express themselves freely - in anger, in tears and in guilt without inhibition - unconcerned that their frankness will later be used in an attempt to judge or discipline them.

This paper considers the counsellor's duty of confidentiality, the relationship of that duty to privacy law, and the situations in which confidential information may be disclosed and to whom. For example, when must the counsellor disclose to the school principal? Finally, the related issue of admissibility of a counsellor’s notes and knowledge into evidence in court proceedings.

School Discipline - 2014

by David Ford

School discipline, or student management as some schools refer to it, generally is aimed at providing a safe, caring and happy school environment in which students can learn and grow. In this paper, David discusses the need for school rules and discipline policies and the extent to which schools should afford students procedural fairness, particularly when contemplating suspension and expulsion. David also examines the ability of schools to discipline students for misconduct occurring “beyond the school gate” or outside normal school hours and when school leaders should contact the police.

Dealing with VERY difficult customers - 2013

by John Murn

This paper provides advice and options for dealing with that increasingly common phenomenon at New South Wales schools, the very difficult customer. She or, probably more commonly, he typically takes up a disproportionate amount of the principal’s time and the school’s resources more generally.


Amendments to the Privacy Act - 2013

by Nathan Croot

On 12 March 2014, a series of amendments to the Privacy Act 1988 will take effect.  The
Privacy Act is one of many Acts which govern privacy in Australia.  One of the key
components of the Privacy Act is that it requires certain entities to comply with privacy
principles. This paper by Nathan Croot presents an overview of the changes as they relate to schools.


Contracts and Agreements – getting it right at each step - 2013

by Warwick van Ede

Sometimes it is good to revisit the basics – some of our recent experiences (together with reading the experiences of others in the reports of recent Court decisions) are a good reminder about the need to protect your school’s position when entering into, performing, and terminating various agreements and contracts.

In this article Warwick discusses:

  • What sorts of Agreements should you take care with?
  • Documenting the Agreement correctly at the beginning of the transaction
  • What to do when things start to go wrong, and
  • Terminating Agreements

School Building Funds - 2013

by David Ford

A recent Sun-Herald headline exclaimed Elite schools spend $20 million a year on upgrades. While some capital expenditure by independent schools comes from governments, the larger proportion comes from parents. Much of the parent contribution comes in the form of tax deductible donations to the school building fund. What is the basis for schools being able to offer donors the incentive of tax deductibility?

Launch of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission - 2013

by Luke Scandrett

The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) was officially opened on 3 December 2012.  There have been many discussions since that time in respect of its scope and powers as the “one-stop-shop regulator” for the not-for-profit sector. So what does it mean for your school?


School Construction Contracts - 2012

By Garry Pritchard

We all commence construction projects hoping that everything will go smoothly with just the occasional hiccup. So how do you prepare for the unexpected difficulties that you may encounter?  Be prepared for the unexpected with this paper by Garry Pritchard.

Safety Law Essentials for Schools 
- 2012

by Warwick van Ede

1 January 2012 saw the beginning of some of the most significant changes to take place in Australian Workplace Safety Laws. This date marked the start of a process to “harmonise” Australia’s Work Health & Safety (WH&S) systems. This process is set to be almost completed on 1 January 2013.

In this brief overview of the new regime, focus is on the key areas of change and the implications of those changes for schools. 

Practical Privacy Issues in Schools
- 2010

Paper by Nathan Croot dealing with Schools' legal obligations regarding what they may or may not do in collecting and using information. It is vital that school administrators and teachers are aware of their school’s obligations and take the necessary steps to ensure that the school meets its obligations.


Managing the Risks in Off-Campus Activities – 2010

Paper by David Ford dealing with risks involved in off-campus activities and how these risks must be managed.

The New Mandatory Reporting Requirements:  Reporting Children at Harm, Then and Now - 2010

Paper by Rod Best, Acting Executive Director Accountability & Review, Community Services, prepared for the Legalwise School Law Seminar.  Covers such issues as:

  • The context for mandatory child protection reporting
  • What has changed?
  • The legal basis for Child Well-Being Units

Parents in Education:  The Legal Issues
- 2010

A paper by David Ford discussing issues such as:

What if they mislead the school?
Do they have a duty of care to their children?
Can they take discipline of other children into their own hands?
Are they free to sound off about teachers?
Can they come and go as they please?


The true cost of bullying - (paper written for "Teacher - The National Education Magazine") 2009

Paper by Nathan Croot dealing with issues raised by the case of Gregory v State of New South Wales [2009] NSWSC 559.

Practical Issues for Investigators
- 2009

Paper by David Ford dealing with several issues that often arise in the course of investigations of allegations of reportable conduct against employees in schools; for example, rules of evidence, hearsay, memories, and previous misconduct.

The Enrolment Contract - 2009

Paper by David Ford delivered to the University of New South Wales' School Law Alert Seminar. It contains practical advice about avoiding misleading and deceptive conduct in school marketing, about the best process for entering the enrolment contract, about the terms to include, about how to avoid disability discrimination and family law problems and about fee collection issues.

Tips for Schools Contracting with External Suppliers - 2008

David Ford’s paper was published in Independent School Business. The paper deals with risk allocation, releases and indemnities, authority to sign contracts and personal liability.

Lawyers and educators working together to protect schools, teachers and students from You Tube and other websites that malign them - 2008

Michael Winram spoke at the 2008 ANZELA conference in Christchurch New Zealand. This paper examines what can be done about defamatory and other material that appears on websites not controlled by Schools.

Discipline and Procedural Fairness - 2008.

Paper by David Ford delivered to the University of New South Wales' School Law Alert Seminar. It contains valuable guidance for non-government schools writing discipline policies based on the principles of procedural fairness, which are essential for re-registration with the Board of Studies.

Cyber Bullying - 2007.

Paper by David Ford delivered to the University of New South Wales' School Law Alert Seminar. This paper covers issues such as basis for Tort Liability, duty of care, breach of duty, bullying out of school, liability, cyberbullying, Commonwealth Criminal Code, Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), what teachers must do when faced with criminal conduct, reporting obligations of teachers, and remedies for victims of cyber bullying.

Risk Management when faced with Child Abuse Allegations - 2006

Paper by David Ford presented at the University of New South Wales School Law Alert Seminar. How do Schools fulfil their duty of care to their students and their employees when allegations of child abuse are made against a current employee? This paper covers topics including the legal background to Risk Management, should the School take precautions against a risk of harm?, employment screening, family law, the risk management process, and the Ombudsman's views.

Keeping Students and their Personal Information Safe from Predators, Parents, Teachers and Themselves - 2006

Paper by Michael Winram on privacy issues such as protecting students from unauthorised photographers and withholding students' personal information from parents, students and teachers. 

How flat is your playground? - 2006

Paper by Elisabeth Ford discusses the potential for liability arising from uneven playgrounds. June 2006 edition of Teacher magazine.

Family law and the enrolment of students - 2006

Caroline Simpson and Prashanth Colombage's article was published in CCH's Schools Alert.

School Excursions: are they worth the risk? - 2005. 

Article by David Ford published in CCH's Schools Alert. 

Beyond the Campus: Is it too risky? - 2005

Paper presented by David Ford at the University of New South Wales School Law Alert seminar, examining the risks associated with outdoor education and excursions, both local and overseas. It provides guidelines for schools seeking to manage the risks and to minimise the likelihood of injury to students. 

Legal Issues Facing Schools - 2004

Paper by David Ford given at the Biennial Conference of the Bursars' Association of NSW. This paper includes a wide range of important legal issues for Schools including duty of care, child protection, reportable conduct, volunteers, apologies, employment, anti-discrimination and taxation.

Tort Reform: does it affect teachers and schools? - 2004

Paper by David Ford given at the University of New South Wales School Law Alert seminar. This paper considers the practical implications for schools of the legislation that has flowed from governments responding to concerns about increasing litigation and the availability of public liability insurance. Topics covered include the Ipp Report, the common law position, Civil Liability Act 2002, duty of care, the negligence calculus, apologies, are teachers professionals?, obvious risks, recreational activities, warnings, and volunteers.

Investigating the Investigators - How not to conduct an investigation in an educational institution - September 2004

Paper presented by David Ford in Wellington, New Zealand at ANZELA's annual conference.
The increased emphasis on child protection in recent years has spawned a new problem for administrators in educational institutions: how to investigate the plethora of allegations against staff and students. Administrators are mostly former teachers who have never been trained in investigative skills. The paper looks at the situation in Hedges v Australasian Conference Association Limited as a case study of how not to conduct an investigation in an educational institution. This case concerned an investigation by the Professional Standards Committee of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Australia following allegations against a teacher at an Adventist school. The investigation was put under judicial scrutiny and found to be lacking in many respects. The paper outlines the requirements for best practice investigations to ensure procedural fairness and natural justice. It also considers the remedies available for those aggrieved by poor investigations.


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