Allegations Against Employees in the Area of Student Protection

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​All students have a right to be free from harm and the department is dedicated to preventing incidents of harm to students and to acting quickly when an employee reasonably suspects harm or the risk of harm to a student has or may occur.

All other student harm matters not relating to employees will be managed in accordance with the Student Protection Procedure.

This procedure applies to suspected harm caused to students learning in a state educational facility and is supported by the Allegations against employees in the area of student protection – guidelines. Harm caused to students over the age of 18 years is managed in accordance with the Code of Conduct for the Queensland Public Service and the department’s Standard of Practice, and/or the complainants, as adults, retain the right to make a complaint directly to Police.


​The Department of Education and Training is committed to providing a safe and supportive learning environment for students and requires its employees to model and encourage behaviour that upholds the welfare and best interests of students.

This procedure outlines the responsibilities and commitment of the Department of Education and Training to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for all students. It covers the steps required to be undertaken when an employee causes harm or where there is a suspicion that an employee has caused, or is likely to cause, harm to a student.

Legislative frameworks may differ depending on the circumstances surrounding the incident of alleged harm; therefore it is crucial this procedure is followed carefully, particularly with respect to departmental employees reporting sexual abuse of a person under the age of 18 years at a state educational facility.

Whilst there are four categories of harm identified, this procedure responds only to the first category:

  • student harm involving employees

Other categories are managed in accordance with the Student Protection Procedure

  • harm caused by another student
  • harm caused by someone outside the department
  • student self-harm.

Incidents of harm caused by an employee must be reported on the appropriate student protection form.

SP1 Referrals

Matters that are categorised as low-level type incidents that are not considered to be repetitious on the part of the employee are to be reported to the Ethical Standards Unit for assessment and review using the SP1 format: Report of student harm (suitable for local resolution) iRefer. The Ethical Standards Unit will provide advice when appropriate subsequent to the referral as to any patterns of behaviour that may be evident with a particular employee.

An SP1 notification is to be completed also in situations where an employee has interacted with a student resulting in low-level emotional or psychological harm. This can be a result of yelling or verbal abuse by the employee, or physical contact or assault of a student. It is acknowledged that SP1 incidents may give rise to an event of slight physical injury or discomfort to a student (i.e. minor scratching/bruising).

Incidents of harm caused by an employee, which are initially considered to be more serious than the incident criteria of an SP1, must be referred to the Ethical Standards Unit on a:

SP2 Referral

An SP2 notification is required in instances where the employee conduct or incident is considered more significant than that of an SP1 type matter. Reportable incidents in this category would range from more significant emotional, psychological harm and/or contact and/or physical assault resulting in some injury to a student. SP2 type matters may also include a repetition of SP1 type matters, if known by the referrer, and other instances of repetitious use of belligerent language towards or discussions with students for no apparent justifiable or educational purpose.

On a case by case basis, the Ethical Standards Unit will determine at the time of assessment if a pattern or behaviour or course of conduct is evident concerning an employee. In addition, the assessment will determine if any inappropriate discussions between an employee and student could amount to grooming type behaviours.

SP3 Referral

An SP3 notification is required when a complaint or report relates to suspected sexual abuse or, based on the information available, it is likely that a student could be sexually abused by an employee. This type of notification would include proper consideration of employee behaviours and/or conduct as it relates to grooming indicators.

In instances where the suspicion or observations of an employee’s interactions with a student/s meets or aligns to some or all of the grooming indicators, a low-level threshold is to be maintained by employees for referring matters to a school principal for consideration, or the principal’s supervisor in the case where the principal is the person under suspicion for the alleged incident. Referral of this type of conduct may amount to suspected sexual abuse as defined under s364 of the Education (General Provisions) Act 2006 (Qld) and as such, is reportable under s365 and/or s365(a) of the Act.

Should you need advice on how to identify this type of conduct by an employee toward a student you are encouraged to contact the Ethical Standards Unit on telephone (07) 3055 2955 or

Reporting of this type of suspected employee misconduct is now mandatory. Employees should make a written report to the principal or the principal’s supervisor in the case of where the principal is suspected.

Principals or the principal’s supervisor must make a written report to Police and send a copy to the Ethical Standards Unit via an Electronic Lodgement (iRefer) format available on the Ethical Standards Unit Intranet site.

This procedure should be read in conjunction with the Code of Conduct for the Queensland Public Service and the Facts Sheets relating to the reporting of sexual abuse and the department’s Standard of Practice which applies to all departmental employees.


All employees:

  • Immediately report to a principal/manager/supervisor and keep appropriate records of any allegation or information about an employee suspected of causing harm to a student
  • Report to relevant director of a region/institute/statutory authority any allegation or suspicion of misconduct by principal/manager/supervisor
  • Monitor and support a student subjected to harm.


  • Refer the details, management, findings and outcomes of any SP1 type incident to the Ethical  Standards Unit using the electronic lodgement service iRefer by selecting SP1: Report of student harm (suitable for local resolution)
  • Refer particulars of any allegations of alleged harm as defined in this procedure the Ethical Standards Unit using the electronic lodgement service iRefer by selecting SP2: Report of significant harm to a student as a result of actions by an employee. The referrer is not to inform the employee who is the subject of the allegation, unless otherwise directed or approved by the Ethical Standards Unit
  • Refer to Queensland Police Service and the Ethical Standards Unit of any matter of student harm as defined as sexual abuse (definition) using the electronic lodgement service iRefer by selecting SP3: Report of suspected sexual abuse of a student by an employee. The referrer is not to inform the employee who is the subject of the allegation, unless otherwise directed or approved by the Ethical Standards Unit
  • Ensure employees undertake online student protection training when they commence work in a school or other state educational facility and undertake annual student protection training updates. 

Regional/Institute/Statutory Authority Directors:

  • Refer using the electronic lodgement service iRefer, allegations that raise a reasonable suspicion of harm to a student made against a principal, manager or supervisor to the Ethical Standards Unit and not inform the principal, manager or supervisor, who is the subject of the allegation, unless otherwise directed by the Ethical Standards Unit.

Director, Ethical Standards Unit:

  • Monitor, review and provide advice on legislative, policy and procedural obligations relevant to student protection matters where employees are involved
  • Provide advice to employees regarding student protection matters
  • Oversee matters referred to the Manager, Complaints Management Team, Ethical Standards unit
  • Oversee the development and delivery of staff training packages on student protection which concern employee involvement
  • Manage investigations against employees relating to student protection matters
  • As the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) Liaison Officer, report suspected official misconduct to the CCC and criminal matters to the Queensland Police Service (QPS) as necessary.

Manager, Complaint Management Team, Ethical Standards Unit:

  • Receive and manage all SP1, SP2 and SP3 type referrals and complaints from principals, managers and supervisors in line with established departmental protocols
  • Receive and manage all referrals of alleged breaches of this procedure, (non- referral of student protection matters), as underpinned by the department’s Standard of Practice and Code of Conduct for the Queensland Public Service
  • In line with established protocols for the assessment and appropriate dissemination of SP1, SP2 and SP3 matters, ensure student protection referrals are processed as required either internally and/or referred, as legally or operationally necessary, to the Queensland College of Teachers (QCT), CCC, QPS and the department’s Workforce Relations area for consideration
  • Provide advice and guidance to employees, parents/carers, principals, managers, supervisors, regional directors and TAFE directors on appropriate responses to student protection incidents.  Such advice will include the identification of proposed actions with regards to assessing and implementing relevant risk management strategies to prevent or minimise the recurrence of any further harm, loss or detriment to the department
  • Liaise with all stakeholders as necessary throughout and upon completion of the referral and complaint management process
  • Provide input in the ongoing risk identification and minimisation of issues affecting all stakeholders and involved parties
  • Manage and maintain SP1, SP2, SP3 and associated complaint matters using the department’s incident management system
  • Provide data on trends and issues to assist the effective utilisation of resources.


​The process is outlined in the role responsibilities of each individual employee group specified in the ‘Responsibilities’ section of this procedure.

Detailed information concerning the established protocols for the intake and assessment (DET employees only) of referrals and complaints to the Ethical Standards Unit is located on the Ethical Standards Unit home page.

Online Resources


An electronic lodgement service iRefer is provided and preferred for efficiency and accuracy purposes when referring matters to the Ethical Standards Unit for assessment consideration and to the QPS in the case of SP3 type matters.

In cases where iRefer is not an option the following referral forms are available:

Supporting documents

Review Date

Attribution CC BY

​The following definitions are applied to this procedure and the allegations against employees in the area of student protection guidelines.


Refers to repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards a student or a group of students that creates a risk to health and safety.

‘Repeated behaviour’ refers to the persistent nature of the behaviour and can refer to a range of behaviours over time.

‘Unreasonable behaviour’ means behaviour that a reasonable person, having regard for the circumstances, would see as victimising, humiliating, undermining or threatening.


For the purposes of this procedure, a child is a person under the age of 18 years.


Any person employed by the department to work in a state educational facility in a permanent, temporary, casual, volunteer or contractual capacity.


Grooming is the act of deliberately establishing an emotional connection to lower a child’s inhibitions. The act of grooming is to prepare, as for a specific position or purpose: groom a child for advancement or preparation for other activities.  An adult may groom a child for purposes of gratification later in life when the child becomes of age or earlier when, and if, an opportunity arises.  Some indicators of grooming behaviour by an employee may include:

Over familiarity

  • Student/s are permitted to call an employee by their first name
  • Students are seen to be in close proximity to an employee
  • The frequency of contact between an employee and a student is seen to be unusual
  • An employee takes or offers to transport students in their car
  • An employee offers to transport a student or students home of an afternoon or bring them to school

Special consideration

  • Special treatment is given to the student such as selection to do privileged tasks in school
  • Differential standard of treatment from other students in areas of punishment and or duties
  • Gives menial tasks or jobs to do such as cleaning, tidying, sorting, photocopying, etc.

Touching or caressing

  • Non-sexual touching can be rubbing shoulders, massages, brushing past, holding hands, playing with hair, checking fingernails, preening, etc.
  • Sexual touching can be all of the above and touching of breasts, buttocks and the genitals or genital area. This touching can be obvious or inadvertent grazes or accidental brushing or bumping

Establish relationships

  • Employee establishes a social bond with the student’s family or family members
  • An unusual interest in a student’s siblings or the activities of siblings
  • Grandparents and other family members, carers or guardians or any other person can also be targeted to establish a bond

Unnecessary out of school hours contact

  • Attendance or interest in sporting events external to school sports activities
  • Meets with the student or family at clubs or other social events such as shows, expos, concerts, etc.
  • Develops a similar interest in the same hobbies that the student is involved in
  • Organises sleepovers where the student is involved
  • Involves other family members in most activities to limit suspicion that then enables access to the student at other times when the opportunity arises


  • Visits the family home at night to tutor or just to talk
  • Repeated phone calls out of hours
  • Text messaging that has no legitimate educational focus
  • Conversing, offering to meet and/or sending images via email
  • MSN or similar - assuming a profile or establishing a cluster where students have to be invited in by the employee
  • Conversing on and or joining as friends on social media sites such as Facebook

Supplying of gifts and treats

  • Expensive or inexpensive presents are provided as rewards
  • Engaging in co-purchasing items that they both can share
  • Suppling of comfort food on a regular basis
  • Easy access to lollies or sweets as treats for good behaviour
  • Lends the student money on the false pretence that they expect the student to pay it back sometime

In Summary

Some of the behaviours likely to be seen when a student is being groomed by an employee include:

  • Secrecy (probably the most important indicator)
  • Sharing of gifts/bribes – purchasing things the student wants
  • Anything that will make the student feel special
  • Isolating the student from family, friends and other support networks – creating ‘us’ (abuser and student) versus others style of relationship
  • Inappropriate sharing of personal information about the abuser to the student and inappropriate ‘equality’ in the relationship
  • Offenders often groom the family and environment of the student
  • Gradual desensitisation of the student to touch and gradual sexualisation of the relationship

These behaviours may not always be reportable conduct where they occur in isolation. However, a repetition of behaviour or patterns or several of these behaviours together could indicate that the conduct may amount to grooming and therefore would be reportable conduct.

Mentoring, coaching or tutoring programs in schools often involve individual attention being given to students from employees. Appropriate conduct within these programs that is consistent with departmental policies should not be confused with grooming behaviour.


As defined in the Public Service Act 2008 (Qld) section 187 (4) (a) (b), misconduct means:

  • inappropriate or improper conduct in an official capacity; or
  • inappropriate or improper conduct in a private capacity that reflects seriously and adversely on the public service.

Official misconduct

As defined in the Crime and Corruption Act 2001 (Qld) (s. 14-15) official misconduct is conduct that could, if proved, be:

  • a criminal offence or a disciplinary breach providing reasonable grounds for terminating the person’s services, if the person is a holder of an appointment and;
  • is a breach of trust by virtue of their position


Refers to the principal or manager working in a state educational facility or a business unit in the department.

Sexual abuse

As defined in the Education (General Provisions) Act 2006 (Qld) s.365 and s.365(a): sexual abuse, in relation to a relevant person, includes sexual behaviour involving the relevant person and another person in the following circumstances—

  • (a) the other person bribes, coerces, exploits, threatens or is violent toward the relevant person;
  • (b) the relevant person has less power than the other person;
  • (c) there is a significant disparity between the relevant person and the other person in intellectual capacity or maturity.

A ‘relevant person’ is defined as:

  • (a) a student under 18 years attending the school;
  • (b) a pre-preparatory age child registered in a pre-preparatory learning program at the school;
  • (c) a person with a disability who—
    • (i) under section 420(2), is being provided with special education at the school; and
    • (ii) is not enrolled in the preparatory year at the school.

For the purpose of this procedure, sexual misconduct and/or sexual harassment may also include behaviours which amount to sexual abuse.

Sexual Misconduct

Sexual misconduct is defined in the department Standard of Practiceas a range of behaviours, a pattern of behaviour or an act aimed at the involvement of a student in sexual acts. Sexual misconduct includes:

  • conduct towards any person that would constitute a criminal offence of a sexual nature
  • sexual behaviour by an employee with or towards a student
  • conduct that is sexual harassment as defined in section 119 of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld)

Behaviours of an employee which may amount to sexual misconduct include:

  • an employee makes a remark with sexual connotation relating to the other person
  • conduct towards any person that would constitute a criminal offence of a sexual nature
  • any sexual relationship with a student
  • inappropriate conversations of a sexual nature with a student
  • comments that express a desire to act in a sexual manner with a student
  • unwarranted and inappropriate touching of a student
  • sexual exhibitionism in the presence of a student
  • personal correspondence (including electronic communication) with a student in respect of the employees sexual feelings for that student or of a general nature
  • possession of pornography on departmental property or any supplied electronic device
  • suggestive remarks or action of a sexual nature
  • obscene gestures, language, jokes containing sexual references or deliberately exposing students to the sexual behaviour of others in any form, other than in the case of prescribed curriculum material in which sexual themes are contextual, or
  • a pattern of behaviour aimed at engaging in or ‘grooming’ a student as a precursor to sexual abuse. Grooming may be a separate offence from the actual sexual abuse.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment occurs when:

  • an employee subjects a student or students to an unsolicited act of physical intimacy;
  • an employee makes an unsolicited demand or request (whether directly or by implication) for sexual favours from a student or students;
  • an employee makes a remark with sexual connotation relating a student or students;
  • an employee engages in any other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to a student and the employee engaging in the conduct mentioned above does so with the intention of offending, humiliating or intimidating the student;
  • a reasonable person would have anticipated the possibility that the student would be offended, humiliated or intimidated by the conduct of the employee; or
  • an employee engages in any other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to a student
  • any conduct that is sexual harassment as defined in section 119 of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld)

State Educational Facility

Includes state schools, TAFE Institutes, Statutory TAFE Authorities and any other educational facility where employees work.

A TAFE Institute is defined in s.191 of the Vocational Education, Training and Employment Act 2000 (Qld).

A Statutory TAFE Institute is defined under Chapter 6A of the Vocational Education, Training and Employment Act 2000 (Qld).


A student is defined as a person who is enrolled in a state education facility and who is under the age of 18 years. This definition is extended to include students who are enrolled in a state education facility, are identified as having a disability, are over the age of 18 years of age, and where a carer or adult guardian has been appointed as the student’s interim decision maker.

Student Harm

Any detrimental effect on a student’s physical, psychological or emotional wellbeing caused by an employee, other than confirmed accidental harm not involving negligence or misconduct.  Harm to a student includes minor harm that is cumulative in nature that would significantly hurt or injure a student, if allowed to continue.  Harm can be caused by physical, psychological or emotional abuse or neglect, sexual abuse or exploitation.

  • Emotional harm occurs when a student is deprived of an environment which supports and nurtures them emotionally and intellectually.  Emotional harm can occur in the home, as well as outside of the home through teasing or rejection from peers or constant criticism from significant adults such as employees of a state educational facility.
  • Physical harm occurs when an adult, such as an employee of a state educational facility, deliberately causes physical harm to a student.  Physical harm may include hitting, kicking, punching, slapping, shaking, throwing, burning, biting or threats to do so when the threat has intent and the employee is in a position to carry out such a threat.


Any person who visits a state educational facility on a one-off or regular basis to provide services.  This includes volunteers assisting in the classroom, on excursion, or as a presenter of one-off program.

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