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Canberra Today 21°/24° | Tuesday, December 7, 2021 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Why principals have to put student safety first

“There is an irony in a school principal resisting mandating. Principals are responsible for a whole range of mandatory behaviours in schools and that they demand of their students,” writes political columnist MICHAEL MOORE.

STANDING on principle against the vaccination mandate for school staff is simply pissing into the wind. 

Michael Moore.

The Charnwood-Dunlop School principal, Rob Lans, didn’t just make a stand against the mandatory vaccination of staff – he also claimed he was “horrified” at the idea that COVID-19 vaccines were available to 12 year olds.

There is an irony in a school principal resisting mandating. Principals are responsible for a whole range of mandatory behaviours in schools and that they demand of their students. Mandating does not just apply to primary school students but right through to college level. For example, college students are not allowed to smoke or bring alcohol to school and they are required to be respectful of other students and staff.

When employed to provide education in a public-school system, personal beliefs are not the highest priority. The education and wellbeing of the students is number one. This is even more important as a school leader. 

When Mr Lans shared a video on Facebook appearing with One Nation’s Senator Malcolm Roberts he stated: “So I am … going to stand up for what I believe in and stand up for the value of that choice, that pro-information, making informed decisions – it is absolute human rights”.

NO! It is not an absolute human right at all. You do not have the right to cross a road against a red traffic light. Or to drive on the opposite side of the road to the traffic or to board a bus without a ticket. Mandates are a key element of a civilised society that attempts to find the balance between individual freedom and living safely with others without increasing personal risk or risk to others. 

Although the ACT is likely to have a 99 per cent vaccination rate by the end of November, this does not justify the point being made by Mr Lans. The reality is that the 99 per cent is only of people over the age of 12. This leaves teachers at primary schools in a unique position of responsibility for the welfare of those children in their care.

Children below the age of 12 will not be eligible for vaccination until such time as the Therapeutic Goods Administration has accepted evidence that any risks of vaccinating this group are warranted. In the meantime, there is a far greater responsibility on the shoulders of those who look after people below the age of 12. 

Education Minister Yvette Berry has determined that the priority for primary schools is putting the health of their students first. This means mandating vaccination of staff. And rightly so. The first priority of every teacher, and particularly senior staff, should be the wellbeing of the students.

A school principal, of all people, should be aware of the misinformation that is abundant regarding vaccination. Even the choice to record in the presence of Senator Roberts, who has been identified as sharing misleading information on COVID-19 vaccination, shows poor judgement. 

Charnwood-Dunlop School Principal Rob Lans… “horrified” at the idea that COVID-19 vaccines were available to 12 year olds. Photo: Facebook

An ACT school principal seeking to influence outcomes weakens their own case by working with a senator from another jurisdiction. However, as local MLAs, local senators or local MPs accept the importance of mandating vaccination for primary school teaching staff – perhaps he felt there was no choice.

Even if 99 per cent of eligible people in the ACT are vaccinated – that still leaves one per cent or somewhere in the order of 4000 people not vaccinated. However, this sort of percentage does provide a strong base for herd immunity. In other words, those in the community who are not eligible for vaccination or who are severely immunocompromised can be protected by the ring of vaccinated people. 

High levels of vaccination are very beneficial for the community at large and are the fundamental basis as to why vaccination of primary school staff is so important. 

Parents want to send their children back to school and to do so in the safest possible manner. Knowing that the risk is substantially reduced because all school staff are vaccinated is important in building confidence. 

Parents and schoolchildren have already suffered enough through the lockdowns. Now they should be able to have the best chance of coming out of the pandemic with the least risk to young children. 

Michael Moore is a former member of the ACT Legislative Assembly and an independent minister for health. He has been a political columnist with “CityNews” since 2006.

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Michael Moore

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3 Responses to Why principals have to put student safety first

Donna Green says: October 27, 2021 at 4:06 pm

Idiotic article. How does a vaccinated person, who can get covid and transmit it, keeping children safe…especially if they are asymptomatic?

Luise Cottis says: November 1, 2021 at 2:15 pm

Retired and elderly, I am amazed at the absolute stupidity and self-centredness of so many of today’s young adults. Some of my family will celebrate Christmas with us – but only the vaccinated ones! So the girlfriend of one of my grandsons won’t be coming. Sorry, we are in the “at-risk” category, so no jab no entry. And no jellybean!
–Luise Cottis


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