Letter: Suspended teacher

We are advised that an unknown teacher in an unknown school has been suspended for three months by the Teachers Disciplinary Board for watching porn on a school computer (the teacher was also investigated for masturbation in a classroom but this was unsubstantiated).

I guess it is not a crime to watch porn and therefore the police would have no grounds for a charge. So he was dealt with under behaviour unbecoming of a registered teacher.

One can only assume that he watched the porn at school, because it is safer (less easy to identify the user) than it would be at home.

The teacher was given name suppression, which closes the door on any witnesses (students/children) coming forward with any other incidents of undesirable behaviour.

This raises three issues for me.

Firstly, is he able to come back to teaching after the three months with nothing more than a report on his teaching file?

Secondly, given that under the current government these new private/partnership schools do not have to have registered teachers, does this teacher then move around the education sector without a warning flag?

And finally, should such incidents be investigated by a totally neutral body with no teacher input (like the Independent Police Complaints Authority)?

If we are truly serious about the rights of children to a safe educational environment, then a teachers' employment rights would need to be secondary to the safety of children.

I don't have any problem with an adult watching porn at home, but any teacher with these sort of issues (being issues played out in the school and his employment environment) should not be registered.

Nobby Clark

New Zealand Teachers Council director Peter Lind replies: The chair of the disciplinary tribunal has stated that this matter reaches the threshold of serious misconduct. Therefore he has suspended the teacher's practising certificate (the maximum period he is able to under the current law), while the teacher is being investigated by the Complaints Assessment Committee. If the matter is not resolved before the three months has elapsed, an application for a further three month period of suspension can be sought. As for a ''warning flag'', the teachers council has no powers over the employment of any teachers employed in partnership schools. However, the teachers council can annotate the register regarding conditions of conduct or competence or, of course, record the cancellation of a teacher's registration of any teacher who has NZ teacher registration.

It is important to note that this teacher cannot be lawfully employed in any independent or state school while under interim suspension - the only exception under the law is a partnership school.

And finally, your correspondent asks if such incidents should be investigated by a totally neutral body like the Independent Police Complaints Authority.

The Education Act states that all matters referred to the teachers council must be referred to the Complaints Assessment Committee for investigation. On all of the panels of the committee, comprising four members, there is one member who is not employed in an education setting.

The Southland Times