9 Nov 2017

'Unless they're hurting someone … you can't do anything'

11:26 am on 9 November 2017

A teacher who carried a struggling child to a school principal's office has been found guilty of misconduct despite being in a difficult position, the Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal says.

A group of school children in uniform sit on the edge of a skateboard bowl

Photo: 123RF

The tribunal's decision said the teacher intervened after four distressed boys complained the child had dragged them through mud and grass and thrown stones.

It said the teacher asked the boy to explain what had happened and when he did not, told him to go to the principal's office.

At one point the student started to walk in the wrong direction and the teacher put his hand on the child's shoulder and steered him towards the office.

Near the office the student shouted and tried to run away but the teacher caught hold of the student, who struck the teacher.

The student then grabbed metal bars near the staff room and the teacher prised his fingers free.

"Student A then attempted to duck down under the bar and run away from the respondent. The respondent put both of his arms around Student A's waist, picked him up and carried him to the Principal's office."

The report said the teacher was in a difficult position because the boy had a history of behavioural problems and might have hurt others.

"We find that the combination of Student A's behaviour on that day and his known history placed the respondent in a difficult situation in determining the best intervention to protect other students from physical and emotional harm," the tribunal said.

However it said physical force was unacceptable in schools and any teacher who used physical force contrary to regulations put their status as a teacher in peril.

The report said all parties agreed the teacher's actions added to the student's distress and that the teacher had used force to correct a student's behaviour.

It said the teacher's behaviour did not lower the standing of the teaching profession and did not constitute abuse, but it did amount to misconduct.

The report said the teacher had since relocated to the UK and had no plans to return.

The names of all involved and of the school were suppressed in order to protect the identity of the child.

'Common sense should apply'

Pat Newman, president of the Tai Tokerau Principals' Association, said legislation gives the Tribunal no choice and it should be changed.

Mr Newman said teachers are allowed to restrain a child, in the most minimal way possible, only while the pupil is in the act that endangers themselves or another person.

"But the moment it has stopped you don't have that power.

"If a child says, 'nah, I'm going to do this', unless they're hurting someone … you can't do anything."

Mr Newman said principals were saying they would have to turn to suspending children. "Otherwise, what happens when every child turns round to us and learns they can say 'we're not going to do it'."

"Common sense should apply above whatever is written," he said.

"They do need to go back fairly urgently to the legislation.

In a statement, the Education Council said its complaints assessment committee was required by law to refer cases that may possibly be serious misconduct to the NZ Teachers' Disciplinary Tribunal.

"In this case, the Tribunal agreed that the teacher had gone too far, though not to the point of it being considered serious misconduct. The teacher agreed."

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