Schools have an obligation to act in loco parentis (in place of the parent) with respect to protecting the safety and rights of students while at school. At the same time, schools have a duty to make information available to parents, guardians or others having a legitimate interest in the child or to provide access to the child at appropriate times. It is the responsibility of the principal to determine whether or not the request is appropriate.
The following procedures may assist in cases where disputes arise.
- Guardianship refers to the rights and responsibilities of an individual/agency to make decisions on behalf of a child.
- Custody refers to the individuals/agency that are/is actually providing support services to the child.
- Access refers to those who may (usually by court order) have access to the child. This may range from unlimited access to conditional access.
- The onus is on the parent/guardian or other party to provide evidence or documentation in support of their claim to guardianship, custody or access to the child. This should normally be done through the school registration process and updated any time there is a change in status.
- Where the principal is not satisfied with the evidence provided, and where there is a dispute, the matter shall be referred immediately to the nearest office of the Child and Family Services Regional Authority prior to the release of the children.
- Where the principal considers there to be a threat to the safety of the child, a staff member or herself/himself, she/he shall call the police as well as the Child and Family Services Regional Authority.
- The principal shall make every effort to ensure the safety of the child is not compromised until the matter is satisfactorily resolved. In so doing, the principal should not place herself/himself or staff in physical danger.
- In cases where the principal is unsure of the action to take, and if circumstances permit, the principal shall contact the Superintendent’s office for clarification.