Child Protection Policy
CHILD PROTECTION POLICY
1. Policy Statement
Vinschool Education System aims to create a safe, positive environment for its students. Vinschool acknowledges that, in its efforts, it is not immune from child abuse. Child abuse is a violation of a child’s rights and is an obstacle to a child’s education and healthy development. Therefore, Vinschool has a moral and legal responsibility to all our students to prevent and deal with harm, intentional or not, and whether instances occur within, or outside of the physical school grounds.
Child protection concerns the health, safety and care of students, including but not limited to abuse, security, premises safety, hygiene and emergency procedures. Harassment and bullying are also included in this policy. All existing and future policies should reflect the Child Protection Policy (CPP).
Therefore, Vinschool will:
- Establish and maintain an environment where students feel safe and secure, where they are encouraged to talk, and are listened to
- Ensure that students know that there are adults within the school who they can approach if they are worried or are in difficulty
- Include in the curriculum activities and opportunities to raise awareness of school safety, abuse, harassment and bullying, how to deal with these issues, and how to report them
- Include in the curriculum material to develop realistic attitudes to personal responsibility in school and other aspects of life throughout the school year
- Ensure that every possible effort is made to establish an effective working relationship between the school and home.
2. Roles and Responsibilities
All adults at Vinschool have a responsibility to protect students.
In order for this policy to be effective, there must be good communication among staff members within the school. To do so, the school must have robust reporting and response procedures. The school needs to ensure safe employment practices, including, but not limited to background checks and health screening for all employees. The school also needs to maintain appropriate confidentiality – all Child Protection (CP) records must be kept and updated by the Office of Student Affairs (OSA). Access to these records within the school must be restricted on a need to know basis. CP records must not be kept with the student’s general records.
The Principal’s role is to ensure that;
- All procedures outlined in this policy are aligned with national frameworks and international best practice.
- This policy is evaluated annually to gauge its effectiveness.
Child Protection Committee
The Child Protection Committee should:
- Consist of a minimum of five members or more, based on each school’s context. The Committee should include a Chair (The Principal or a Vice Principal), the CP Officer (The Head of OSA) and the Nurse, together with any additional members who are appointed at the discretion of the Principal.
- Liaise with the OSA to investigate and resolve each report of abuse.
- Ensure that the CPP is efficiently communicated and effectively implemented by all school personnel.
Child Protection Officer – Campus level – Head of Office of Student Affairs
The Child Protection Officer should:
- Collaborate with the CP Committee to implement the Child Protection Policy.
- Raise awareness of the CP Officer role to parents, students and adults.
- Respond appropriately to disclosures or concerns which relate to the well-being of a student.
- Maintain confidential records of reported cases and action taken.
- Be aware of the CPP and their responsibilities.
- Be trained in identifying and preventing instances of abuse on site.
- Report any suspicion of abuse to the OSA.
All non-teaching staff should:
- Be aware of the CPP and their responsibilities.
- Report suspicions of occurring/re-occurring/past abuse to the OSA.
- Ensure the safety of the environment, including but not limited to following equipment and emergency guidelines and regulations.
Child Protection and Safeguarding Coordinator – HO level
The Child Protection and Safeguarding Coordinator – HO level should:
- Monitor and review the CP policy and procedures annually to ensure they remain current and fit for purpose.
- Liaise with schools to ensure appropriate safeguarding training for all adults working with students.
- Ensure all the staff, including the CP Officer, adhere to the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) at all times, particularly respecting confidentiality.
- Complete regular child protection reports and share with the CEO and senior leaders.
Parents should be:
- Reminded of the CPP annually.
- Report any suspicion of abuse to the homeroom teacher, or directly to the OSA
- Students should be encouraged to report to the homeroom teacher, or directly, to the OSA any suspicion and/or findings of abuse inside and/or outside the school relating to themselves or others.
3. Abuse and Neglect
Caution should be used when referring to the list of signs of concern. Although the list below may be indicative of abuse, there may be alternative explanations. During information gathering, any of these signs should be viewed within the overall context of the child’s individual situation, including any disability or existing mental issues.
Possible Indicators of Physical Abuse
- Bald patches, scalds, burns;
- Bruises, black eyes, broken bones;
- Injuries to the parts of the body where injuries are unlikely to occur, e.g. thighs, back, abdomen;
- Burns with a pattern from an electric burner, iron, or cigarette;
- Wearing long clothes, even in the summer;
- Refusal to undress for PE;
- Fear of physical contact, e.g. shrinking back or flinching if touched;
- Injuries that cannot be explained or explained unconvincingly;
- Others, e.g. bite marks or any type of injury that does not seem to align with the student’s explanation.
Possible Indicators of Emotional (Psychological) Abuse
- Physical, emotional and/or mental development lag;
- Sudden speech disorders;
- Overreaction to mistakes;
- Inappropriate response to pain;
- Symptoms of depression, anxiety or withdrawal;
- Behaving aggressively or being disruptive;
- Using drugs or alcohol;
- Displaying attention seeking behavior or destructive behavior (self-harming, suicide attempts);
- When at play, behavior may model or copy negative behavior and language used at home.
Sexual Abuse is to commit, or allow others to commit, any sexual offense against a child as defined by the Child Law of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. It can include intentionally touching either directly or through clothing, the genitals or breasts of a child for other than hygiene or childcare purposes.
Sexual abuse has some different characteristics of child abuse that warrant special attention. While physical abuse is often the result of immediate stress and not usually planned, sexual abuse usually requires planning with results that are more insidious. This planning, referred to as grooming, can result in victims accepting the blame, responsibility, guilt and shame for the sexual behavior of the offender. Sexual abuse requires far more secrecy than other forms of child abuse, so it is more difficult to report.
Some victims, through the process of grooming, can present themselves as happy and well-adjusted children with no negative symptoms because of their perception of being loved.
Possible Indicators of Sexual Abuse
- Sexual knowledge, behavior or use of language not appropriate to age level;
- Unusual interpersonal relationship patterns or interpretation of appropriate physical boundaries;
- Venereal disease in a child of any age;
- Evidence of physical trauma;
- Difficulty in walking or sitting;
- Reluctance to change into physical education (PE) clothes, fear of bathrooms;
- Not wanting to be alone with an individual
- Pregnancy, especially at a young age;
- Presentation of emotional abuse may be an indicator of sexual abuse
Neglect is failure to provide for a child’s basic needs within their own environment.
Neglect may be:
- Physical (e.g., failure to provide necessary food or shelter, or lack of appropriate supervision— this would include failure to provide proper adult guardianship such as leaving children unsupervised at home for any extended period of time).
- Medical (e.g., failure to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment); and/or
- Emotional (e.g., a pattern of actions, such as: inattention to a child’s emotional needs, failure to provide psychological care, or permitting the child to use alcohol or other drugs. Specific examples may include verbal humiliation, refusing to acknowledge the presence of a child, invasion of privacy for no specific reason, violent threats, etc.)
Possible Indicators of Neglect:
- Child is unwashed or hungry;
- Parents are uninterested in child’s emotional, social, or academic development;
- Parents do not respond to repeated communications from the school;
- Child does not want to go home;
- Child is left for extended periods of time (age appropriate) without parents or a guardian;
- Parents cannot be reached in the case of an emergency;
- Signs of emotional abuse may be an indicator of neglect;
- Lack of adequate adult supervision;
- Child’s medical needs not being met over time
4. Reporting Suspected Abuse or Neglect
It is everyone’s responsibility, whether in direct or indirect contact with students, to report disclosure and/or suspicions of abuse to the OSA as soon as possible.
When a student discloses in good faith to an educator/member of staff any form of abuse or maltreatment, the following procedure should be used:
- Listen carefully, reassuring the student that disclosure is the right thing to do and it is not their fault.
- Explain that it is in the student’s interest to compromise the confidentiality to help the student before the report is made to the OSA.
- Report to the OSA as soon as possible. The report should be made through the referral form online or reported directly first if the student is in immediate danger.
5. Response procedures
The response varies in relation to the scale of each case, however, the same steps should be applied.
The following steps provide more detail to the response procedure:
Step 1 – Collecting information
The OSA takes initial steps to gather information regarding the reported incident. The CP Committee is in charge of investigating the information. In all cases, follow-up activities will be conducted in a manner that ensures that information is documented factually, and that strict confidentiality is maintained. The following procedure is used:
- Interview staff members as necessary and document information relative to the case.
- Consult with school personnel to review the student’s history at the school.
- If warranted, create a report with an action plan and forward it to the Principal and the School Board for approval (move to Step 2);
- If the report is not substantiated, enter the case into the student’s CP records and report an update to the original reporter.
- Report details of the case to the Child Protection and Safeguarding Coordinator – HO level
Step 2 – Family consultation
Based on acquired information, a plan of action will be revised and approved by the School Board to assist the student and family. Actions that shall take place are
- The CP Committee (and others as deemed necessary) meet with the family and present the school’s concerns.
- Ongoing observations of the student by teachers and the CP Committee.
Possible follow-up actions include:
- Referral of the student and family to external professional counseling with release of information to counselor;
- The person suspected of committing abuse will face consequences according to the school policies.
- For students, the appropriate response will be decided according to the Behavior Policy.
- For adults, the appropriate response will be decided according to the Internal Rules & Regulations of the Vinschool Education System (VES)
- Report to local authorities based on VES’s regulations.
Step 3 – Follow up
Subsequent to a reported case of child abuse or neglect:
- The CP Committee and the homeroom teacher will maintain contact with the student and family to provide support and guidance as appropriate.
- The CP Committee and the homeroom teacher will maintain contact with outside therapists (if any) to update the progress of the student in school.
All documentation of the investigation will be kept in the child’s confidential file by the CP Committee. CP records may only be released with parental consent. One exception to this is if the school believes the child continues to be at risk. In these cases, Vinschool has the responsibility to relay potential safety concerns to the relevant agencies and/or the new school in the student’s best interests. CP records are normally exempt from the disclosure provisions, which means that students and parents do not have an automatic right to see them. If any member of staff receives a request from a student or parent, he/she will refer the request to the Principal.
6. Managing Allegations against Vinschool Education Staff and other adults. (See separate policy)
7. Key Contact Number
If students and staff members have concerns or issues regarding CP, they should contact the OSA hotline number for the school which should displayed in common areas including washrooms so that anyone can call and talk about their concern or issue confidentially.
Appendix – Glossary of Terms
Vinschool’s CPP endorses the UNCRC’s definition of the “child” as an individual human being below the age of eighteen. In the current context, the term implies to all students of VES, even if they are over 18. The policies relating to health, safety and care of the child applies to the whole student body, unless the student is involved in illegal activities which break the Vietnamese law. In such cases, the school does not take full legal responsibility and will cooperate with the local authorities.
A broad term that describes intentions, policies, procedures and guidelines to protect children from both intentional and unintentional harm. In the current context, it concerns all agents of the school – students, educators, non-teaching staff, and parents – whether the violations happen inside or outside of the school premises.
Child Protection Policy
A statement that operationalizes the commitment of the school to fulfill its ethical and moral responsibility to promote the child’s rights and act in the best interest of the child. In the current context, the policy is intended to shield the child from harm, intentional and not, that may be inflicted by him/herself, other students and/or adults.
Child participation enables and encourages the child to express themselves and their views on the matters which affect them. In the current context, it includes adults listening to the child, ensuring that matters, regarding the school have a valuable input from the child on his/her terms.
Vinschool adopts the World Health Organisation (WHO) definition of abuse. It includes “all forms of physical and/or emotional maltreatment, sexual abuse, neglect, and exploitation that results in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, development or dignity”. It can be classified in four categories:
- Cutting/hurting self, having suicidal thoughts, suicide or suicide attempts
- Physical and/or psychological bullying, physical and/or sexual abuse
Abuse by adults/others
- Physical, verbal and/or sexual domestic violence, corporal punishment, sexual abuse and exploitation
- Be incited to self-harm by peers or others (not including adults)
- Social, political, cultural and economic environment that condones or encourages violence against children, such as normalizing humiliating punishments, high prevalence of media violence, especially promoting portrayals of children and women as ‘property’ of men and violence as a way of showing dominance.
Disclosure is defined here as the action of telling a peer, a teacher, a parent or a member of non-teaching staff. It can be verbal or nonverbal, accidental, deliberate, or over time.
Capacity to freely give an affirmative statement based on all available facts, according to the age and evolving capacities of the child. Although the child’s consent is not required by law, it is considered as best practice to ask for an informal consent from the child on top of the mandatory parental consent. This reflects Vinschool’s child-centered philosophy.
A set of rules, which limits access to and restricts collection of certain types of information. In the current context, all information relating to the child needs to be kept in a secure place. Any access needs to be kept to minimum, only for the “required for work” basis. Disclosure of sensitive information can be made only in the best interests of the child, such as suspicions of abuse, harassment or personal issues. Vinschool aims to prevent potential harm to the child, such as malicious activities undermining the privacy of the child’s life, the child’s identity and/or well-being.
Transparency breaks through the culture of silence, taboo, secrecy and fear which surrounds disclosure and discussion of abuse. It shows that the organization has nothing to hide and, most importantly, is willing to acknowledge and learn from its mistakes. It may include procedures to minimize misunderstandings and rumor and to record all information properly.
Direct contact with children
Being in the physical presence of the child in the context of Vinschool’s work, whether occasional or frequent, and whether in the short- or long-term. Some examples include but are not limited to teachers, premise supervisors, canteen staff, security guards, nurses and cleaners.
Indirect contact with children
Having access to information on the child in the context of Vinschool’s work, including but not limited to student, CP and medical records. Albeit indirectly, any donors or external supporters also bear responsibility over the school’s direction and, therefore, the child’s development.
Educators are defined as the school’s agents who are in constant direct contact with the child and who implement the curriculum. They consist of teachers, teacher aids and supervisors.
In the context of Vinschool, non-teaching staff include all employees of Vinschool, excluding teachers, teacher aids and supervisors who are in constant direct contact with the child.