Schools could be sued for sexual abuse committed by their staff regardless of whether the school was negligent, under major reforms recommended by the child abuse royal commission, the Canberra Times reports.
Children would also be taught from preschool to recognise signs of grooming and protect themselves against sexual abuse or exploitation as part of the school curriculum.
Of nearly 7000 survivors who met with the commissioners, almost a third reported being sexually abused in a school setting – a quarter of those in public schools and a third in boarding schools.
In response, the royal commission recommended states and territories make it easier for victims to sue schools that allow abuse to happen. This would involve legislating a non-delegable duty of care that applies regardless of whether the school was negligent.
The provision would also apply to preschools, day care and other facilities that look after children. States should also reverse the onus of proof and require schools to demonstrate what steps they took to prevent abuse, the commission recommended. The measures would not be retrospective and would not open up a litany of historic claims.
Furthermore, the commission recommended a national program to teach children about abuse prevention, to be embedded in the curriculum from preschool to grade 10.
Teachers and other staff would also be liable for the new criminal offence of failing to report child sexual abuse. It would apply even where a teacher did not know about or suspect the abuse, but should have suspected in their circumstances.