WHY CHOOSE US?
Serene is very passionate about student protections at schools (both primary and secondary), universities, TAFE’s and other private colleges. Students may be exposed to bullying, discrimination and harassment. We also deal with more severe cases of sexual assaults and rape. Students may be targeted by other students or by the educational institution itself. We have dealt with unfair academic appeals decisions, student misconduct allegations and serious bullying and victimisation behaviours.
Serene, and her team of specialist consultants, are very well positioned to provide you with the meticulous legal advice, know-how and empathy necessary to achieve realistic results. We will help you or your child navigate through the stress and anger often associated with Student Protection Processes, focusing on swift justice while achieving the best outcome for you.
Unlike other law firms, we cap our student protection fees on a case by case basis (excluding costs for disbursements and Barristers). There will be no surprises. Our aim is to reach an early resolution to enable you to move forward with your life.
We understand the system intimately and we are disgusted with the increasing rate of sexual harassment claims (including rape and sexual assault) at Universities and other private colleges. We will deal with these claims in a highly confidential manner to ensure that your privacy and mental health & wellbeing are protected.
We are also concerned about the increasing rates of students, especially in higher education, that may end up being targeted by the institution they study at and/or its affiliates. We have dealt with serious bullying and harassment of students in medical programs, including by other medical specialists and staff.
We do not agree with the concept of restorative justice applied at primary and secondary schools to deal with bullying of students in the absence of a whole-school approach. The concept of restorative justice is a system of justice that focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims. We do not think it is a constructive process to place the victimised student in a room with the offending student with a view of reaching reconciliation where the school is not facilitated with appropriate programs to deal with the bad behaviour. It is our experience that the bad behaviour will only escalate outside of the classroom. We are happy to discuss appropriate strategies with you as to how to deal with bullying at schools when it happens to your child.
HOW WE WILL HELP YOU?
There are numerous laws that have been set up to protect your basic rights to have a discrimination and bully free environment at schools, universities and other colleges.
Unfortunately, these cascading levels of laws and the bureaucracies entrusted to deal with them are not always easy to navigate through or understand.
There are many reasons why you could end up being targeted at school or university. People who bully others are often motivated by the status and social power they can achieve through bullying.
Some may bully others to compensate for what is happening to them and their own feelings of powerlessness. Bullying behaviours can also be copied by others.
Bullying can be done through a number of different actions and behaviours, it can be overt or covert, and can occur in both individual and group situations. Some bullying can be quite subtle or involve words known only by the students, making it difficult for adults to recognise. These complexities can make it difficult to identify if a person or group is being bullied.
We help you understand the protections afforded to you under the law and how to apply them effectively when you are dealing with your educational institution. In many cases, we find that dealing with the institution directly can be very helpful especially when schools or universities are responsive to students’ needs and have a whole-school approach to optimising student wellbeing experience (this includes the explicit teaching and modelling of positive values and wellbeing through Social and Emotional Learning curriculum and pastoral care).
Unfortunately in the absence of this whole-school approach to dealing with bullying, harassment and discrimination, restorative justice principles applied in a vacuum will often turn on the student and escalate the bullying to institutional abuse.
We have the meticulous understanding and ability to navigate you through these institutional responses to help you achieve the best outcome. Ultimately, we do not want your mental health and wellbeing to become sacrificed throughout the process. For this reason, we will keep checking in with you to make sure you are alright and good to continue.
We tackle the following bad behaviours head-on:
- Bullying behaviours– the types of bullying behaviours are physical, verbal or social. Bullying can be obvious (overt) or hidden (covert). Bullying can take place in person or online. Bullying –verbal or social – that happens online or via a mobile phone is referred to as online bullying or cyberbullying. Research indicates that the majority of young people who bully online also bully others in person.
- Victimisation behaviours- including being subjected to threats or other form of detriment or harm for having lodged a complaint at your educational institution, provided information or documents, reasonably asserted your rights or someone else’s rights under a relevant law.
- Sexual harassment- unwelcome or unwanted sexual behaviour that offends, humiliates, intimidates or undermines you. It can be physical, verbal, written or other conduct. It can be a single incident, or repeated behaviour.
- Vilification behaviours- including behaviour that incites or encourages hatred, serious contempt, revulsion or severe ridicule against another person or group of people because of their race and/or religion.
- Discriminatory behaviours- being treated unfairly or not as well as others because of a characteristic like your sex, religion, sexuality or gender identity, physical features or disability.
- Violent behaviours- this includes physical assault, sexual assault and rape. We will help you report these violent behaviours and seek compensation as a Victim of Crime.
Apart from the criminal repercussions for violent behaviours targeted towards students, in Victoria, Brodie’s Law applies to all forms of serious bullying, including physical bullying, psychological bullying, verbal bullying and cyberbullying.
Brodie’s Law was introduced after the tragic suicide of a young woman, Brodie Panlock, who was subjected to relentless bullying in her workplace.
Brodie’s Law makes serious bullying a criminal offence by extending the application of the stalking provisions in the Crimes Act 1958 to include behaviour that involves serious bullying.
The offence of stalking, and therefore conduct that amounts to serious bullying, carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.
Brodie’s Law applies to bullying occurring anywhere in the community, such as workplaces, schools, sporting clubs and on the internet including email or social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Bullying is often characterised by a course of conduct that can include behaviour such as threats and abusive and offensive words or conduct. Serious bullying may also include conduct or behaviour that is intended, or could reasonably be expected, to cause the victim of the bullying to engage in suicidal thoughts or thoughts or actions that involve self-harm.
We will help you navigate through Brodie’s Law and see it if it an appropriate course of action for you or your child.
Dealing with the bad behaviour of an individual or a group is hard enough until you escalate a student complaint to your institution or raise the matter with the school about this behaviour and realise that the institution is either ill-equipped to deal with the complexity of the matter or becomes complicit in the bad behaviour itself.
We strongly urge you to reach out to us before making an internal complaint to your institution or school. However, we are very well-equipped with the know-how and strategy to de-escalate if you approach us at any stage afterwards.
In schools, the bad responses may include:
- ineffectively dealing with the bully or bullies and forcing the bullied student to continue to interact with the perpetrators,
- blaming the bullied student for not having enough resilience to cope or deal with the bully or bullies,
- instructing the bullied student to ‘Say No’ to the bully or bullies without following up the consequences if there is further escalation, or
- forcing the bullied student to talk about their feelings with the bully or bullies without following up the consequences if there is further escalation.
There may be more subtle reactions by the school to the bad behaviour which constitutes further bad behaviour.
Our advice to all parents with children suffering from bullying at school is to temporarily keep the child at home, removed from immediate danger. Your child’s safety, health and wellbeing will be at risk if they continue to go to school while the dispute with the bullying is dealt with. We will discuss with you all of your options and offer you realistic pathways on how to respond to bullying and potentially move forward with your child’s future.
In universities and training institutions, the bad responses may include:
- poor performance reviews,
- failing grades,
- failure to provide reviews to students or engage student in the review process,
- perpetrators assessing performance,
- compulsory medical referrals with ‘hired-gun’ psychiatrists,
- loss of student benefits,
- sham investigations of targets’ complaints or wrongful investigation of targets,
- denial of review rights,
- reported for trivial or manufactured matters,
- prevention from developing a written record of victimisation,
- increased scrutiny of studies or performance,
- essential study resources withdrawn,
- over-worked (eg. as a medical trainee) or set up for failure or under-worked to ensure boredom or sense of inferiority,
- threats of official or unofficial reprisals,
- trivialising, exaggerating or otherwise distorting the target’s complaints and then discrediting the target by rejecting the resulting ‘red herring’,
- forced censorship,
- legal/policy rights misrepresented or denied,
- ostracism/rumour spreading,
- undermined authority,
- blacklisted for other positions or referrals,
- stopped from graduating,
- initial behaviour complained about is allowed to continue/escalate or is replicated by other employees towards the targets,
- pressuring the target to seek counselling/medical treatment rather than perpetrators,
- forced to work with perpetrators,
- required to work or study in unsafe conditions,
- property damaged, or
- psychological, sexual, verbal or physical intimidation or abuse.
We have dealt with specific issues relating to sexual harassment of women, emanating from the medical establishment (predominantly hospitals), where senior medical specialists direct the sexual predatory behaviour and serious sexual harassment. We have also dealt with assaults and rapes of women at University Campuses and other educational institutions.
We have dealt with specific issues relating to bullying and discrimination emanating from students making complaints about their treatment or student conditions where senior staff at higher educational institutions directs the victimisation behaviour.
We have also challenged the unfair models of student assessments at higher educational institutions where the student is at the behest of a senior specialist’s grading e.g. medical registrars can receive a fail or bad review after many years of successful achievement and then be denied the opportunity to view the results of a fail or low grading by a senior specialist.
We are very keen to help you to ensure that you get the most realistic outcome, preserving your mental health and wellbeing at all costs and ensuring that your reputation is not compromised for future prospects.