Help Protect our Children at Brindabella Christian College

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Help Protect our Children at Brindabella Christian College

The establishment of this petition is to (i) show clearly the community’s position in regards the safe guarding and well-being of all children at Brindabella Christian College; and (ii) to collectively support the case of the Jayatilaka family who are defending the rights of their children to remain at the school by challenging the termination of their enrolments as unlawful.

An Urgent Hearing of this matter has been scheduled in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal, 3pm Monday 3rd February.

In signing this petition you are affirming the following statement.

“As a community and affiliates of Brindabella Christian College, we do not support the termination of an enrolment, which directly impacts children, as an acceptable way to resolve a concern, complaint or dispute between parents and the school”.

Important Note:  The signed petition will NOT be passed to the BCC Board.   It will be submitted directly to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Court to assist in the Jayatilaka defence, with information copies passed to other important stakeholders listed below.

We encourage anyone who cares about this issue and has some kind of affiliation with BCC to sign, including: parents, teachers, staff, students, pastors, ex-staff, ex-students, friends, and family.

Please show your affiliation with BCC next to your surname when registering on the petition (eg – John Smith (Pastor) ). For your security, you may uncheck the tick box to keep your name private from general view while the Petition is Open.  Once signatures are collected, a private pdf will be submitted to the Court of Tribunal, with everyone’s names listed collectively. Information copies will also be sent to others listed below.

The Petition will continue to stay open as a forum for supporters to express their support, as we continue to fight for the rights of our children.

A copy of this explanation and petition will be provided to:
The ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Court
For information:
Hon Dan Tehan, M.P., Minister for Education
Hon Dr Gary Jones, Australian Charities and Not-For Profit Commission (ACNC)
Ms Yvette Berry, M.P., ACT Minister for Education
Hon Zed Seselja, M.P., Senator for the ACT
Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission
ACT Department of Education
Christian Schools Australia (CSA)

 

Note: We are NOT asking for any donations towards this cause. The website may prompt you for a contribution, which goes towards the promotion of this petition on their website. Thank you if you have already made a donation, however, we do not believe any further promotions on this website are necessary.

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Dear Parents, staff, students, friends and supporters of BCC,

The Issues

As many of you may be aware, two weeks ago the Jayatilaka family were informed, via lawyers acting on behalf of the school, that the enrolment of their children at BCC was terminated.  Timothy (Year 12) and James (Year 9) are no longer welcome at BCC.  

These actions by the Board represent a growing pattern of Board overreach into operational issues, which have directly resulted in the resignation of many staff and several school principals; the dissolution of the Parents and Friends Association; and, threats of legal action against several school families. Unfortunately, the Board remains accountable only to themselves and have gone to great lengths to silence any concerns raised by staff, students and parents about governance at BCC.

As a result of the Jayatilaka’s situation, an application has been made to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal. During this hearing the court will consider if it is unlawful for the school to terminate the boys’ enrolment when they have done nothing wrong.

The Jayatilaka’s are seeking a ruling by the Court to continue to allow their children to attend BCC and secure their safety and well-being at the school, thus the establishment of this petition as a means to show your support.  It’s an important way you can demonstrate your concerns with this case, including the direct and indirect impacts this is having on the entire school community.

Historical Context

Brindabella Christian Education Limited (BCEL), or Brindabella Christian College (BCC) as it is locally known, is an independent Christian School in Canberra providing education from K-12 and Early Learning Centres for children up to 4 years old. 

For many families over the years BCC has been a blessing and many children's lives have been enriched by the love and care of teachers and the school community.  Furthermore, many people have chosen BCC specifically for its Christian values.  Sadly, in the eyes of many parents and friends of BCC, some of these values are not being upheld, resulting in both emotional and material harm to both families and students at the school.

Brindabella is currently governed by four unelected Board Members.  The current BCEL Constitution provides the Board with a great deal of power, with no real mechanism to keep the Board accountable, outside of the Board itself.

While a not-for-profit board’s role should focus on the compliance and performance of an organisation, the day to day running of the organisation is the responsibility of the school principal and staff. Unfortunately, it has been the experience of many involved with BCC that the Board often intervenes at the operational level, which has created friction amongst both BCC staff and parents. The large number of staff, including teachers and executive staff, who have left the school are direct evidence of such friction in recent years.

There are many experiences, both individually and collectively, of hurt and pain due to the actions of the Board. These have included the dissolution of the BCC Parents and Friends Association and the resignation of a series of Principals, many of them citing Board interference in their operational roles. Despite attempts by many parents to seek answers from the Board for such actions, the Board has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing nor acknowledged any issues with their governance or decision-making processes.  

Two weeks before the 2020 school year commences at BCC, the Board unexpectedly informed the Jayatilaka family that their two sons, one about to start Year 12 and the other in Year 9, are no longer welcome at the school and have been unenrolled. These children, by the Board’s own admission, did not do anything wrong. These actions are an attempt by the Board to remedy an alleged dispute between the Board and the children’s parents, after the parents raised questions about the Board’s conduct in a number of different areas following the resignation of the then school principal, Christine Lucas, in mid-2019.

This action against children, by the Board of a school who have demonstrated their willingness to exceed their role and repeatedly take on operational decisions, raises serious questions about their conduct. Furthermore, the children are left with little recourse to appeal this decision, demonstrated by the need to involve the Human Rights Commission in their defence, a process that is ongoing. The expulsion of these children from school will have a significant impact on their personal well-being and their academic performance in 2020.

This action also goes directly against the school Complaint Policy, which states (Item 6.9) that ‘Students are not to receive adverse treatment because they or their parents make a complaint.’ Of note, the Board recently inserted a new clause into their enrolment policy, stating that ‘A student may be asked to leave Brindabella Christian College if: the conduct of their parents, guardians, or carers brings Brindabella Christian College, its Board Members, Executive Staff, teachers of staff (individually or collectively) into disrepute;’.

The use of this new enrolment policy presents an alarming overreach by the Board, which threatens the rights of all parents and children who legitimately wish to raise concerns or make a complaint to the school.

Other students have also raised concerns about the high level of staff turnover and the impact on their education and performance, including the older sister of the expelled brothers. As a College Captain last year, she spoke at the BCC School Presentation Night of the impact staff turnover had on her and many of her classmates and thanked the previous Principal for her service, without criticising anyone.  As a result of her remarks, she was not allowed to continue to MC the evening or take part in the final school performance, of which she had a leading part.

These are examples of the Board’s direct influence on BCC’s operations. Furthermore, despite numerous appeals by previous school principals and parents, little in the school has changed. The Board has actively sought to remove any opposition to their leadership and have targeted both staff and parents who raise any objections to their decisions or decision-making processes, demonstrated most dramatically two weeks before the school year resumes by preventing the Jayatilaka brothers from returning to BCC in 2020.

The BCC Board’s actions have adversely impacted the school over recent years, including through the instability generated by constant staff turnover and a series of Principal appointments and dismissals.

The targeting of children of parents who have raised concerns about the Board’s actions and governance arrangements, however, takes these concerns to a new level. The Board’s actions present a risk to all enrolled children who have parents and carers who wish to speak up or make a complaint in order to make BCC a better place, stand up for change and hold those in authority to account.