Principals wary of new tribunal rules

AUDREY MALONE
Last updated 05:00 25/03/2014

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South Canterbury principals believe the rule changes brought in by the Teachers Council for greater transparency over misconduct charges are a double-edged sword.

Currently tribunal decisions are published on the Teachers Council website, but, unless otherwise ordered, are made anonymous by deleting the names of the teacher, witnesses, and other identifying factors.

As of July 1 there will no longer be blanket name suppression for teachers in tribunal rulings, and the hearings will be open to the public, and news media, it was announced on Friday.

Aoraki Secondary Principals' Association chairperson, Janette Packman said she believed transparency meant the public could be assured the teaching profession had disciplinary procedures that were rigorous, and robust.

"The offending teachers must be held accountable for their actions.

"However, I would be very concerned that this more transparent approach may also have negative outcomes," Mrs Packman said.

However, she said it should be treated with caution, the impact on a school community could be substantial, and could well have a greater effect in a smaller community.

"The law of natural justice must apply. If the hearing finds that the allegation was unfounded then the impact for the teacher, their school and the students could be substantial and untenable," she said.

Bluestone principal Ian Poulter agreed with Mrs Packman's sentiment, and said transparency was vital so trust could exist between the public and the profession.

"As long as the process is fair, and justice is followed, I can't see how this is a bad thing," Mr Poulter said.

But there was always the potential for things to get out of control if there was no belief of fairness.

South School principal, Mike Hogan said teachers should have the same rights as anyone else in any court, no more no less.

"We need to also weigh up the rights of the public to know, and the rights of the individuals concerned," Mr Hogan said. "You have to realise we are talking about someone's career, possibly a families livelihood."

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- The Timaru Herald

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