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The Department of Education is unaware of the number of child sex offenders attending WA schools with the figure potentially in the hundreds, according to children’s court data.
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In documents obtained by WAtoday through freedom of information laws, an urgent meeting attended by several ministers on March 27 revealed “it is likely there are offenders in schools unknown to the school or department administration and therefore no risk management or support is in place”.

Children’s Court of WA data showed 132 children aged between 10 and 17 were charged with sexual offences in 2015-16, with 10 children given custodial sentences for sex assaults that same financial year.

Between 2010-11 and 2014-15, nearly 600 children were charged with sexual assault and related offences, meaning hundreds of convicted children could be attending schools.

The revelation comes after angry parents demanded laws that effectively gag the state government from informing schools and parents about child sex offenders be changed to better protect the broader community.

It followed three separate incidents at two WA schools in recent months where three boys – one a convicted child rapist, and two accused child rapists – had quietly returned to school after their conviction or charges were laid.

One of the boys, 11, had his charges dropped on May 12 after a psychiatric report revealed he was not mentally fit to stand trial.

He had been supervised by two full-time staff at his school until February when parents discovered he had been accused of raping an eight-year-old boy at knife-point in December and forced the department of education’s hand to remove him.

File photo: iStock

Notes from the ministers’ meeting revealed the boy and his family had since been relocated by the Housing Authority after they received vigilante threats from community members.

“Provision of education has involved the student and his siblings being relocated, with the siblings being enrolled in another WA public school and the offender to be provided an education program at an engagement centre, separated from other students and under constant supervision,” it read.

Chaired by education minister Sue Ellery, the meeting also revealed another complex case of a child sex offender never previously reported.

It detailed the difficulty the state government faced to ensure a child’s statutory right to an education was upheld, while still protecting the broader community.

The boy, who was in detention at the time of the meeting, once released would require the location of his education be kept a secret and due to the “level of danger” he would be transferred to and from the education facility by police.

“Emergency planning if the site became known and was approached / entered by a community member” and “safety concerns for staff delivering his educational program” were highlighted during the meeting as highly problematic issues.

The case was described as being extremely resource intensive with the state government noting its capacity to provide the same level of planning for multiple similar cases was “very limited”.

Current laws which protect juvenile offenders’ identities mean a child is able to return to school following a serious sexual assault charge or conviction without an assessment or any clinical intervention.

The omission was deemed inappropriate during the ministers’ meeting, as it meant the risk the student presented to other students was not determined or discussed with teachers.

Alternative schooling options for child sex offenders in WA were described during the meeting as limited, mostly due to the intensive resources required to carry out individual teaching options.

The School of Isolated and Distance Education was touted as an option that would allow child sex offenders to be home-schooled, similar to students who live in remote areas of WA.

However many of the children convicted of sexual crimes do not have suitable supervision at home to carry out this option and instead would likely be required to attend a small specialised engagement centre or undergo individual tuition at a location where there are no other children.

In the instance of the 11-year-old boy who was charged with sexually assaulting an eight-year-old, the Perth Children’s Court had previously ordered he attend school as part of his bail conditions.

Meanwhile another 17-year-old boy who sexually assaulted a 12-year-old boy who attended the same school was sentenced to a 12 month intensive supervision order in February.

The order required he also attend school.

His victim has been accused of going on to sexually abuse a nine-year-old boy and is due to face court on Tuesday.

Both boys were removed from their school following a public outcry from parents after their offences and alleged offences became publicly known and parents kept their children home in protest.

“Predominantly the offenders (or alleged) have bail conditions that prevent them from having contact with other children except for when in school (where most children are all day),” the minister’s meeting notes revealed.

“Bail conditions applied to school-aged young people can compromise the safety of other children.

“Meeting those conditions in a manner that ensures the safety of other children can impose considerable strain on a school’s resources, most often requiring individual constant supervision.

“With older children, safety of staff is also a potential issue, particularly if the department is prevented from informing them.”

Ms Ellery, who inherited much of the public’s outcry on the school safety issue when she was sworn in as education minister in March, has vowed to improve the management of sex offenders at schools.

“The education department has been working with police, child protection, corrective services, and the attorney general to set up a new notification process,” she said.

“We will release our proposal and key recommendations soon.”

Keep our Communities Safe spokeswoman Georgie Elle said any changes to the notification process would not be enough to protect children from sex offenders.

“Nearly every parent I’ve spoken to feels like none of these people should be in schools,” she said.

“When the minister has a policy in place that says this is to minimise the risk, I guess parents feel like you acknowledge that there’s a risk, remove the risk, you shouldn’t have to manage the risk.

“How do you manage grooming?”

Ms Elle is advocating for alleged and convicted sex offenders to be educated away from the broader school population, claiming principals and teachers often weren’t equipped to deal with the issue.

During the ministers’ meeting, the state government conceded the situation was a catch 22, whereby parents expected to be informed about risks at their child’s school, but privacy and legal implications limited how much information could be shared.

“These issues are most effectively managed if the offender is not placed in a school or similar environment where other children attend,” the meeting notes read.

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