Discipline for outspoken teacher

Last updated 15:43 29/07/2013

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A teacher at a Maori immersion school who told off a student for reporting her abusive grandparent to Child, Youth and Family (CYF), has been found to have breached professional standards.

A Year 8 student around 12-years-old, who was related to the teacher, turned up to school one day out of uniform, in clothes purchased for her by CYF.

She was playing around, had shared her plastic headband with a boy, and come to school wearing lipstick, finger polish, and earrings, according to the teacher.

The teacher, who was charged with serious misconduct by the New Zealand Teachers Council's disciplinary tribunal, said the girl was "showing off" with what CYF had bought her.

The girl and her two siblings had recently been taken out of their grandparents' care after allegations of abuse. The grandfather pleaded guilty to assaults, and was sentenced to five months home detention.

The teacher held her regular Monday morning round-table meeting with her students.

In front of the other children in the class, she asked the children who had been taken into care how they felt about their grandparent being charged.

She asked if they felt they could get everything they wanted now, referring to the CYF clothes.

The teacher acknowledged she was angry the grandfather had been charged, and was annoyed she even had the young girl, who she thought was a liar and a thief, in her class.

She gave the student the impression she had done something wrong by reporting her grandparents, was a "naughty girl", and said words to the effect of "look what you have done to your koro [grandfather]."

In a letter she submitted to the council, she said she was guilty only of having "told a young girl off for putting her grandfather through hoops."

"Her grandfather and I are cousins from Northland. That in Maoridom gives me a say in her life."

The teacher said the way the situation had been handled had been unfair, and not held in a Maori context and manner.

"I was isolated from colleagues and the Tumaki wiped her hands of me," she said.

"I was handled in a manner which took my mana and dignity away and thrown in the gutter."

She said she was crushed by the case, had apologised to the student's grandfather, and would have apologised to the student if she had been given the opportunity.

The tribunal said in a country struggling with issues of child abuse, it was "nothing short of unforgiveable" for a teacher to make a vulnerable child feel she was acting wrongly for reporting abuse to the proper authorities.

The tribunal decided the teacher would have to tell the New Zealand Teachers Council's Manager if she changed jobs, stopped teaching, and if she got a new job she would have to give them contact details of any new employer.

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She would also have to give a copy of the decision to any new employer, and get a mentor.

In addition, she would have to give the council a plan to show how she would address professional boundaries with students.

- Fairfax Media

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