Duty of Care during remote learning
Hi, it’s Susan McLean. Today, this is a special video for teachers where I’m going to talk about your duty of care during remote learning. Duty of care is something that’s applicable to all schools and all teachers. It means that they have a particular, Judy, towards their students to ensure that where possible, they are safe supported, medical attention is provided if necessary, and that there are policies and procedures in place to deal with and prevent bullying, including cyberbullying.
It’s never been more important that schools understand that even though a student may not be physically on their premises, the duty of care to that student still applies. During Covid-19, it’s been difficult for everyone to move to remote learning, and even though some schools are returning, there will still be that online component of learning for many months to come. Now is not the time to launch into new apps and platforms that you have not used before. Apps and platforms that have not been endorsed by your Education Department, Catholic Education Office, the hierarchy of your school.
It’s concerning to me that many schools seem to not be thinking about cyber safety in their push to provide online learning for their students. All the policies that a school should already have. Should keep you and stand you in good stead during this time. But what I’ve seen in my work with schools recently is sometimes they haven’t put the background work into these policies previously. So now they’re flying blind. You need to have an acceptable use policy, you need to have a policy about online communication, a school social media policy, there needs to be rules and guidelines about how teachers conduct their online classes.
And whilst, yes, teachers need autonomy because they are the experts in delivering content, what they often don’t have is that background knowledge about what cyber safety is. Some things that I’ve seen recently and I just put these out there so that you can think about them and see if they’re applicable to you are launching into social media apps. Tik Tok in particular. Where teachers are asking students to video themselves on Tik Tok, doing physical education challenges on Tik Tok.
Let’s do a Tik Tok video and it’s submitted as pastoral care. Tik Tok is a dangerous app as an adult, if you wish to use it, that is your choice. But it is one of t e top apps for sexual predators worldwide. It is not an educational tool. And unless your department or school has done a thorough risk assessment of this app, and have obtained informed consent from the parent for the use of it. You are in breach of your duty of care if you’re incorporating that into your lessons.
You need to understand that even when you do everything right, something can go wrong. And if someone is going to judge you about whether you did the right thing, what they will look at is did this person do what a prudent person would do in the situation? So no more. No less. If you have done everything right and something happens, then all we have to deal with whatever has happened. But if it can be proven that you did not do what a prudent person would have done in this situation, then it can be a breach of duty of care, which is something, of course, we all want to avoid.
Make sure your policies are up to date. Make sure you are aware of them. Err on the side of caution. A school in Sydney several years ago was sued by a student who is extensively bullied at the school during the school day and also online. The judge found that the school had breached its duty of care to the student.
The school appeal that decision, but the student won again because it was proven that although the school had a policy, the policy was not followed. So we need to make sure that, yes, you have the policy, but do you have the practice and procedure in place as well? Make sure that you have informed parents about the educational apps and platforms that you will be using, how you’ll be delivering your lessons. Make sure you have received informed consent for the use of those.
Make sure that the school has provided guidelines to you, the teacher, about how to conduct yourself online and the expectations of the school. This is particularly important if you’re using a platform such as Zoom that allows teachers to record the lessons. I’ve had very distressed parents contact me where a teacher has recorded a Zoom lesson and then uploaded that to a public Facebook page. That is a clear breach of a school’s duty of care to that student. This advice is for you to protect yourself because if it all goes downhill very quickly, I can promise you the school is not going to support you if you’ve gone out on a limb. If you’ve gone rogue and you’re using non verified apps and platforms.