Government continues the secrecy surrounding staff misconduct in the Department of Education, Children and Young People

On Tuesday and Wednesday in Parliament, Independent Member for Bass, Lara Alexander, MP, questioned the Minister for Education, Children and Young People, and the Premier about disclosing the number of teachers and staff currently suspended, under investigation for sexual misconduct involving students. Through the Commission of Inquiry report, it came to light in February 2023 that 52 teachers have been suspended or dismissed following allegations of sexual misconduct involving students. Both the Minister for Education and the Premier consistently refused to provide definitive answers to Mrs Alexander’s questions and to update MPs on what is thought to be a growing number of staff who are alleged to have had inappropriate interactions with Tasmanian students.

Mrs Alexander said: “by refusing to answer these crucial questions, Premier Rockliff and Minister Jaensch have disrespected Parliament and they are leaving parents across the state deeply concerned about the safety of their children.”

Mrs Alexander directly confronted the Minister for Education, Children, and Young People, the Hon. Roger Jaensch, with two straightforward questions:

“Can you please update the House on how many teachers and staff are currently suspended while under investigation for allegations of sexual misconduct?”

“Can you also please confirm for the House that any teachers who are currently subject to such investigation are not actually moved around to other schools and that this particular practice will be placed under significant scrutiny by your department?”

The Minister refused to answer both questions in a clear, direct manner.

Ms. Alexander’s concerns were further validated when her colleague, Independent Member for Lyons, Mr. John Tucker, MP, echoed the same questions, only to receive the same evasive response from the Minister.

“This blatant disregard for transparency within the Department for Education, Children and Young People is deeply troubling and raises serious doubts about the commitment to child safety and cultural change within the Department,” Mrs Alexander said.

“When asked about rebuilding trust in government institutions, especially concerning child safety, the Premier’s response lacked the clarity that this situation demands. The Premier emphasised the removal of persons unknown involved in allegations of child sexual abuse from the workplace, but crucial questions regarding their reassignment and monitoring remain unanswered.

“How can the community trust the Government with the welfare of our children, if Premier Rockliff and the Minister Jaensch are perpetuating the wall of bureaucratic silence and obfuscation? Will they ensure regular, unambiguous, public disclosures of the number of alleged predatory perpetrators across every government department; or will they be complicit and continue to act as a shield for the staff who are alleged to have participated in serious wrongdoing?

“Parents have every right to know if teachers and staff involved in misconduct are being reassigned to other schools, thereby, potentially, placing even more students at risk.

“I intend to call for full disclosure to the Parliament on this matter. The information we receive from Minister Jaensch must be complete and presented in documented, unequivocal form. The people of Tasmania have a right to know the extent of the problem and what measures are being taken to ensure the safety of their children within our schools. Anything less than complete transparency is unacceptable and further endangers our children.

“Minister Jaensch should be acutely aware that what happened to Minister Barnett could very well happen to him if he fails to fulfil his responsibilities to the Parliament and, more importantly, to the safety and welfare of our children. The community demands answers, and I will not rest until Minister Jaensch stands up in Parliament to guarantee that children are safe and secure within the institutions, for whom he is responsible.

“It appears to me, the culture of secrecy continues, with an attitude of business as usual. Both, the Minister and the Premier, have failed to answer direct questions in Parliament this week about the number of teachers and staff suspended or sacked.

Both have claimed they need further information but have failed to provide it.

They have had the Commission of Inquiry report for weeks. There is no excuse for this failure to provide even basic information to parents and the community”, Mrs Alexander said.

Thursday September 28th, 2023.

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