The deputy principal of a rural college has been censured after he punched a student on the chin in a “play fight”.
The long-serving teacher stood down from his duties as deputy principal for six weeks after the incident on March 21 last year, but the Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal says he should have been stood down for two terms.
“We think the respondent’s behaviour was surprising, and serious, coming from such a senior and long-serving teacher. It went beyond a moment of stupidity,” the tribunal said in a decision issued today.
“While the respondent has engaged in remedial or rehabilitative steps, we think the six weeks stand-down from his leadership role scarcely reflects the seriousness of the incident.”
All names and identifying details in the case have been suppressed to protect the student involved and the deputy principal’s wife and daughter who both suffer from health conditions.
The incident occurred when students, several teachers and other adults were stacking silage after school to fundraise for the college.
“The respondent started play-fighting with a Year 12 student,” the tribunal said.
“While the student and the respondent were play-fighting, the student swore; the respondent slapped the student on the back of the head; the student punched the respondent in the ribs; [and] the respondent used a controlled left jab to the student’s chin.”
The deputy principal told the college later that other students were play-fighting too, but the fight between the deputy principal and the Year 12 student “started to get really rough”.
“The respondent says he took several hits to the body and head from the student,” the tribunal said.
“That was when the respondent ‘did a controlled left jab to [the student’s] chin’.
“The student walked away swearing. The respondent says that he asked the student to ‘please be respectful and not swear. This made the student swear more.
“The respondent admits that he then ‘stupidly slapped [the student] in the back of the head’.”
That night, the deputy principal apologised to the student and informed the chairs of two organisations connected with the school whose names have been deleted.
The next morning he called the student’s mother to apologise.
Two weeks later he apologised to a full restorative hui attended by the student and his whānau, the college’s principal and board of trustees, a cultural advisor and the deputy principal’s wife.
“As a result of the hui, the respondent subsequently acknowledged his behaviour and apologised to all the college staff at a staff briefing, [and] took a step back from his management role at the college for six weeks while he rebuilt his mana,” the tribunal said.
“This included not speaking at assemblies, and not investigating incidents that occurred at college, especially those of a similar nature to the current matter.
“The respondent started meeting with a mentor fortnightly, who is to assist the
respondent with professional reflection and accountability.”
The tribunal censured the deputy principal for “serious misconduct”, finding that his actions adversely affected the student’s welfare, reflected adversely on his fitness to be a teacher and brought the teaching profession into disrepute.
“It is completely incompatible with the role of a member of the senior management team of a school to resort to violence in this way. It raises serious doubts about the respondent’s judgment,” the tribunal said.
“Our concern is that the use of deliberate pugilistic violence of any kind within a school is clearly against current policies and legislation, cannot be tolerated and must be clearly denounced.
“The respondent’s unblemished prior record and steps to achieve reconciliation stand to his credit to mitigate against a more serious penalty than that which we have determined is appropriate.
“We consider that an appropriate outcome to reflect the relative seriousness of this matter is censure, annotation of the register for a period of one year, and a condition that the respondent gives a copy of this decision to his current employer and to the principal of his current employer, and to any future employer for a period of two years from the date of this decision.”
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