Waikato kindy teacher stole kids' lunches

Last updated 08:55 03/12/2013
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Lunch thief: A kindy teacher was found dipping into the lunch boxes of children in her care.

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A Waikato kindy teacher was caught stealing food from children's lunchboxes before either eating it, hiding it or putting it in her pocket.

The case is one of more than a dozen of serious misconduct at Waikato education providers in the past five years.

The 16 cases include sexual relations between teachers and students, sexual violation, possessing child pornography, and convictions for drugs and threatening to kill.

It is the first time that disciplinary decisions specific to Waikato teachers can been revealed as, until now, the Teachers Council has kept all location and identifying details secret.

The council initially refused to provide the information and it has taken more than five months for the Times to obtain it via the Official Information Act.

A teacher at an unnamed Waikato childcare centre was censured in April after she was caught on camera stealing food from her pupils' lunchboxes in November, 2011.

Staff did not believe the children when they first raised the alarm that food was missing, a Teachers' Council Complaints Assessment Committee decision said.

It was not until the teacher was caught on closed-circuit television that the centre took action.

She was seen opening lunchboxes, removing food and either placing it in her pockets, a plastic bag or eating it.

The committee found that, despite the modest value of the food items, stealing from children was at the "serious end of the spectrum" of unacceptable behaviour.

The woman, who made no excuses for her behaviour, was also ordered to declare the serious misconduct to prospective employers for five years.

"She emphasised that she was trying to put this incident behind her, that there would be no repetition, and that she was hoping to move on with her career," the decision said. Six Waikato teachers have also been barred from the classroom for having inappropriate sexual relations with students, including one case of underage abuse.

This follows revelations by the Times last month that South Waikato school teacher Rueben James Parinui Tapara is facing charges of sexually abusing boys in his care and supplying them with cannabis between 2010 and August this year.

In one case, heard by the Disciplinary Tribunal in September 2009, a male teacher had sexual relations with three male students over four years.

The teacher also sent explicit text messages and sexual photographs of himself and made sexual sounds over the telephone to the students.

Another Waikato teacher faced the tribunal in 2010 for making repeated inappropriate and sexualised comments to teenage girls.

He said words to the effect of, "Bend over and I'll take a photo of your tits" and "When your nipples are hard you get horny."

One male teacher, aged 29, was sent to prison for three years and six months for forcing a 13-year-old girl to perform oral sex on him.

In all cases of a serious sexual nature the teachers were formally censured and had their registrations cancelled.

Teachers Council director Peter Lind said cases of serious misconduct brought the teaching profession into disrepute and compromised its role in the community.

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"Overall, you've got to say that the vast majority of teachers act honourably and professionally and so whenever there's a slip that's why it's such a shock to everybody because that's not the expectation of the profession."

He said the cases ranged in severity from significant betrayals of trust to misjudgments around the use of social media.

Thorough vetting of teachers was needed to reduce the chance of serious cases of misconduct occurring in schools, Mr Lind said.

"I don't think you could ever say you can totally prevent or eradicate everything because of the nature that's involved in some of these cases."

LESSONS LEARNED

The ten most recent examples of serious misconduct involving Waikato teachers, provided by New Zealand Teachers Council. Dates refer to when the case was heard by the Teachers' Council Disciplinary Tribunal, not when the misconduct took place. 

April 2013

Childcare teacher caught stealing food from children's lunchboxes. She was censured and ordered to declare the serious misconduct to prospective employers for five years.

March 2013

Secondary school teacher re-wrote students' work for moderation by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, and falsified her own professional growth appraisal.October 2012 - teacher convicted of possessing a needle for cannabis use and procuring and possessing cannabis plant in 2009 and had a history of drugs convictions. She was censured and deregistered.

August 2011 

High school teacher met students at a bar. He bought alcohol for a female student, invited her to his house and had sexual relations with her. He was censured and deregistered.

April 2011

Teacher convicted and sentenced on 12 charges of possessing objectionable publications of children. He was censured and deregistered.

April 2011

Teacher sentenced to three years and six months' imprisonment for sexually violating a 13-year-old girl by unlawful sexual connection and of having performed an indecent act on a young person. He was censured and deregistered.

February 2011

Teacher convicted of common assault, breach of supervision and benefit fraud. She was censured and deregistered.

December 2010

Primary school teacher convicted of benefit fraud while in full-time employment. She was censured and ordered to disclose the misconduct to any potential employers when applying for a teaching-related position.

October 2010

Teacher used inappropriate and sexualised comments with a number of year 11 students, including words to the effect of: ''Bend over and I'll take a photo of your tits.'' He was formally censured.

July 2010

 Teacher arranged for a 17-year-old female student to spend the night with him, gave her alcohol, and had sexual relations with her. His registration was cancelled.

June 2010

Teacher had inappropriate relationship with a female year 8 (intermediate) student. He wrote her a love letter, sent her sexually inappropriate text messages and kissed her at school camp. His registration was cancelled.

September 2009

Teacher had sexual relations with three male students. He also sent sexual text messages and photos of his genitalia and made sexual sounds over the phone. He was censured and deregistered.

May 2009 

Teacher convicted for assaulting and threatening to kill estranged wife. He was censured and his practising certificate was suspended for a minimum period of six months.

December 2008

Teacher continued an inappropriate relationship with two female students on two separate occasions. She told one student she loved her and could not live without her. She was censured and deregistered.

October 2008 

While employed as an early childhood centre manager, a teacher regularly stole money from her employer. She was censured and had her teacher's practising certificate suspended for a nine months.

October 2008

A secondary teacher kissed, hugged an inappropriately touched a female student, gave her alcohol and suggested she do a strip dance for him. The tribunal gave both parties an opportunity to address the question of penalty within 15 working days.

- Waikato Times

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