Investigated teacher refused to open laptop, but can still teach
A Waikato teacher accused of inappropriate conduct refused to give a fingerprint for access to his school laptop, but even so, he's allowed to keep teaching.
The primary school teacher, who has name suppression, was alleged to have pornography or inappropriate material on the encrypted computer.
Investigators couldn't get in for fear of wiping the hard drive.
The man's principal at the time was also worried he was getting too physically close to students, adding them on Facebook. There was also an alleged favouritism of a male student.
The NZ Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal found the man "desperately needs to learn some very serious lessons as to what constitutes appropriate behaviour".
His misconduct was serious, but the tribunal didn't find improper intent, ruling the failure to keep a professional distance was likely due to naivety and personal difficulties.
The man said he was in his mid-20s at the time and made "silly mistakes".
He will be allowed to teach again in July 2016 with conditions, including notifying future employers for three years of the misconduct, and must attend a year-long boundaries programme.
The man worked at a Waikato school from late 2007 to early 2014, mostly with seven- and eight-year-olds.
Kids saw him as cool, the tribunal heard, but there were concerns he was being more mate than teacher.
Students were regularly inside the "personal bubble" he should have maintained as a teacher, the tribunal found.
By 2013, the man's former principal was making at least two unannounced visits to the man's classroom each day to check on his conduct.
The principal had seen incidents including students resting their legs on the teacher's and a student patting the teacher's hair, the principal told a November 2015 hearing.
The parent of one boy complained to the school about a change in her son's behaviour, which she felt was because he was a favourite of the teacher.
The teacher said he didn't encourage or allow student contact and warnings from the school had put him on edge.
"At absolutely no stage during my teaching career did I mean any harm to any student," he said at the hearing.
"I was petrified of any kid touching me at that stage."
The man's failure to change his behaviour after warnings backed up the tribunal's conclusion that he didn't have "improper or inappropriate motivations", it said.
"The respondent is, at least in the short term, incapable of having and acting on the required insights about his behaviour."
Access to the laptop was part of the case and the teacher gave a password - which wouldn't work.
He repeatedly refused to give his fingerprint, including at the disciplinary tribunal hearing, despite veiled innuendo about grooming.
Police and PricewaterhouseCoopers couldn't get into the laptop because they were worried the hard drive could be wiped due to the level of encryption.
"Regardless of whether there was in fact inappropriate material on the computer, the plain fact is that the computer was the school's property and the respondent was preventing the school from accessing and using its property," the tribunal found.
Conditions apply to the man's return to teaching.
For the next three years, he will have to show the tribunal's decision to prospective employers, and they must send written acknowledgment of seeing it to the Education Council.
He must also undergo a year-long boundaries programme with a mentor.
The teacher register entry for him will be altered to say that he has been censured and conditions apply.
He has been asked to pay 40 per cent of the costs of the disciplinary proceedings.