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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 4 Hansard (11 April) . . Page.. 1175..

Political party activities and school students

(Question No 114)

Mr Pratt asked the Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services, upon notice, on 7 March 2002:

In relation to political party activities and school students:

What is the Department of Education's policy on the unsupervised distribution of political material to school students and (b) the undertaking of political party activities eg, demonstrations, incitements to action, without Departmental or school authority approval, as recently demonstrated at a Canberra college.

Mr Corbell: The answer to Mr Pratt's question is:

(a) The Department of Education and Community Services had informed schools in writing of the need to make every effort to ensure that unauthorised political information and materials are not distributed to students when they are in the care of the school/college.

In relation to the recent incident at a Canberra college, the Principal was informed that the participants were students of the college holding an information stall on a topical issue. Young people's participation in our democracy is desirable.

(b) The Department of Education and Community Services had informed schools in writing of the procedures, which apply to student absences during school hours. Particular mention was made that these procedures are especially important in the context of students being encouraged by outside organisations to attend demonstrations or rallies during school hours.

In primary and high schools, students must not be absent from school without written permission from parents. In the case of colleges, students and parents are made aware each year of requirements for course attendance. These requirements apply at all times.

(c) To reiterate my views, the provision of such information in a pluralistic and democratic society is one that I do not have a problem with. Indeed, I welcome the fact that young people are engaging in the political process. Schools too have a role in encouraging the spirit of thinking that comes with young people choosing to engage in the political process.

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