Editorial: Curious class action

Parents would have been perturbed by reports of a hearing to decide whether a former teacher should be deregistered. The case in favour of deregistration looked formidable: The teacher had fabricated grades for work not done by students, forged the head of her department's signature, and lied about what classes she had taught.

When she feared she would be fired, she arranged for a gang member to confront the principal. She confided in a colleague, however, and was arrested and charged with attempting to commit or procure the commission of a crime. Factors that have not been made reported seem to be involved, because she was given diversion and no formal conviction was entered against her.

She resigned after being arrested but wants to return to teaching. That's where the Teachers' Council and its disciplinary committee come in. As the professional and regulatory body for registered teachers, the council aims to support the professional status of teachers and promote high-quality teaching and learning.

The disciplinary hearing had to decide if the teacher should be deregistered. Weighing up whether its responsibilities to the public and the profession could be met without deregistering her was curiously testing - the tribunal's report says it was a "difficult decision" and it reached its determination "by the finest of margins".

Even more curiously, the committee decided the teacher would not be deregistered. Bewildered commentators have asked what a teacher must do to fail the test. It's a good question.

The case raises questions, too, about the merits of a fundamental teachers' union argument against allowing unregistered teachers in classrooms, as will happen when charter schools are introduced. A registered teacher who fibs and falsifies students' grades, by that reasoning, is more acceptable than, say, someone with a doctorate in mathematics but no registration.

But then we must ask if we would hire an unqualified lawyer to do our legal work or an unqualified surgeon to cut into our brains. The Teachers Council decision, at first blush, is at odds with the maintenance of high standards. But the onerous conditions to be satisfied before this teacher can return to the classroom effectively means no school is likely to hire her.