16 Aug 2013

Children's identities must stay protected - teachers

9:33 pm on 16 August 2013

The Teachers Council must remember to protect children's identities if it agrees to start naming teachers guilty of serious misconduct, teachers and principals say.

Their comments follow a parliamentary select committee recommendation that the council change rules automatically suppressing the details of its disciplinary hearings.

The 20 to 30 cases of serious misconduct heard each year are entirely secret unless the Teachers Council's disciplinary tribunal decides otherwise.

In practice, the tribunal does publish its decisions but without identifying any of the people or schools involved.

Now, the Regulations Review Select Committee says the hearings should be open unless the tribunal makes an order to the contrary.

The Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) and the Secondary Principals' Association agree teachers should be named if they are guilty of misconduct.

But they and the union, the New Zealand Educational Institute, say in some cases that will not be possible as identifying teachers will identify their victims.

PPTA president Angela Roberts says teachers should be named in most cases where they are guilty of misconduct.

"We're quite comfortable with lifting the automatic suppression as long as there's still that mechanism that enables suppression when appropriate. Because this is about protecting victims," she says.

"Anonymity in small communities, for example, is really difficult when you name a teacher."

Secondary Principals' Association president Tom Parsons says the change is overdue.

"We have to be open and transparent and were the Teachers Council to have some teeth to enforce embargoes, or any name suppression, then that would be fine."

The Teachers Council will consider the recommendation later this month.