Digital Technology: Safe and responsible use in schools
The following guide is a companion to the Guidelines for the surrender and retention of property and searches.
2. Video recording of an alleged assault
Students ‘A’ and ‘B’ were at a party and there was an incident following which Student ‘A’ has claimed an assault on her by Student ‘B’. Student ‘A’ says it was recorded by Student ‘C’ on his smartphone. Student ‘A’ has complained to the Deputy Principal about Student ‘B’ and wants the school to confiscate Student ‘C’’s phone as evidence.
Focus more on behaviour, less on digital technology
Although the alleged incident occurred off-premises and after-hours, when establishing a school’s power and responsibility to act, the question is not where or when misconduct took place but what the impact is on the school or its students.
Further, the focus should be first on the behaviour and not the digital technology. Once the school becomes aware of an alleged assault, it has a clear duty to act and the matter should be referred to the Police.
The role of digital technology
The possible existence of a recording of the incident means that there is the potential for:
- endangerment of student safety i.e. by posing an immediate threat to the physical or emotional safety of a person
- detrimental affect on the learning environment i.e. disrupting the school environment through gossip, innuendo and intrigue.
The recording taken by Student ‘C’ of the alleged assault poses an immediate threat should they decide to share it. The recording could also provide direct evidence useful to the investigation of the incident. These arguments provide the Deputy Principal with a firm basis for a decision to take action in this incident. A request for Student ‘C’ to surrender the phone can be made. The device should be electronically and physically secured, and provided to the Police as soon as practicably possible.
In its investigation, the school should also seek to discover how far the images might have spread. For example:
- have any copies of the images been made?
- have they been communicated to a third party and, if so, how?
- have they been posted online and, if so, where?