Teacher argues against proposed code of conduct

May 8th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Another sticking point in the bill was around the introduction of a code of conduct to replace a code of ethics.

Jules Nicholas, a teacher with more than 16 years experience in New Zealand and the United Kingdom, said a code of conduct was not needed.

“We already have an aspiration code of ethics that we value and set high standards for us in the profession.

“I’m a teacher with three teenage children and expect that the teachers who appear in front of my children will adhere to the code of ethics.

“Do we really need a code of conduct? Are you saying that you don’t trust the thousands of teachers that work in the thousands of classrooms every day in the thousands of schools?”

I’m amazed anyone can argue there is no need for a binding code of conduct.

The chair of the soon to be scrapped New Zealand Teachers’ Council, Alison McAlpine, said the new council would need greater powers to discipline teachers than it currently had.

“The new professional body should have the power to cancel a teacher’s registration for competence reasons.”

Under the proposed amendments, a teacher’s practising certificate could be cancelled but not a registration, although that could be done in matters of serious misconduct.

That needed to be changed so the new body could cancel registrations based on incompetence, McAlpine said.

That would be good.

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Teachers Council name suppression

August 16th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Graeme Edgeler complained to the Regulations Review Committee of Parliament that the rules put in place by the Teachers Council to apply blanket name suppression to all details of their disciplinary proceedings trespassed unduly on personal rights and liberties, appeared to make some unusual or unexpected use of the powers conferred by the statute under which it was made and contained matter more appropriate for parliamentary enactment. The Herald on Sunday joined his complaint.

The Committee has reported back and it is a partial victory, which pushes things in the right direction. They have resolved to recommend:

  • the New Zealand Teachers Council change rules 31, 32, and 33 to ensure the proceedings of the Teachers Council Disciplinary Tribunal are open to the public unless the Disciplinary Tribunal makes an order to the contrary 
  • the Government consider introducing amending legislation to specify, in the Education Act 1989, that the proceedings of the Teachers Council Disciplinary Tribunal are open to the public unless the Disciplinary Tribunal makes an order to the contrary on specified statutory grounds.

Their conclusions were that the rules of the Teachers Council:

  • are in accordance with the general objects and intentions of Part 10A of the Education Act 1989 (Standing Order ground 315(2)(a)); 
  • do not trespass unduly on personal rights and liberties (Standing Order ground 315(2)(b)); 
  • appear to make an unusual or unexpected use of the delegated power in section 139AJ of the Education Act 1989 (Standing Order ground 315(2)(c)); and 
  • may contain matter more appropriate for parliamentary enactment (Standing Order ground 315(2)(f)).

The two Labour MPs on the committee (Street and Dalziel) wanted to go further and find that the rules are not in accordance with the Act and do trespass on personal rights and liberties. Presumably they would have supported the Committee actually disallowing the rules, rather than just recommending they be changed.

The ball is now in the court of the Teachers Council to listen to Parliament and change their rules.

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Bad teachers

July 4th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A teacher has lost his job after mistakenly broadcasting pornography to his classroom.

In a decision published yesterday, the Teachers’ Disciplinary Tribunal censured the unnamed teacher for the few seconds of adult content he broadcast in November 2011, but stopped short of cancelling his registration.

The man himself was so shocked after the clip that he simply continued to teach the year 12 class without mentioning the offending material.

After pupils raised the porn clip with their student counsellor, the teacher immediately confessed and resigned.

The mistake occurred after he viewed the pornography at home on his personal work laptop.

He was streaming a PowerPoint presentation from his laptop on to the school smartboard when it switched over to the next file, which happened to be pornographic.

That reminds me of when I replied to an e-mail from my former flatmate, with a humourous quip which included use of the c word. Sadly for her she had her laptop hooked up to a data projector which was video-conferenced into a group from Singapore. My e-mail came up in Outlook preview for around three seconds, including the immortal words “Did you spell c**t wrong?”

Talking of the Teachers’ Disciplinary Tribunal decisions though, can anyone find them online? I’ve had a look through the Teachers’ Council site and can only find decisions prior to 2007.

A female gym teacher was not so lucky after being accused of sexually grooming a 12-year-old girl, texting her obsessively and rubbing her thigh.

The tribunal censured the woman, who is not named, for serious misconduct and stripped her registration.

The decision showed she and the pupil exchanged 1500 texts over a month, with the teacher using “obscene and abusive” language.

So why is she not named?

A male teacher caught with his underpants around his knees next to a 16-year-old female pupil in the back of his car was stripped of registration. When asked by police what he was doing, he responded that they were discussing “family matters”.

Family matters? Only if you’re Tasmanian!

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Radical changes proposed for Teacher’s Council

May 21st, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Government’s review of the Teacher’s Council has released a draft proposal which represents radical change for the much criticised Council. The Council was found to be not be effective in its current structure and operations. Some key aspects:

  • Current membership is four appointed by Minister, two by unions, one by NZ School Trustees and four elected by teachers.
  • Proposal that Minister appoint all members, based on open nomination process – as with the Medical Council
  • Separate out registration of teachers with a more regular practising certificate (again like Doctors)
  • Allow the Council to authorise people who are not teachers to have “Authority to Educate” if they have proven expertise or disposition deemed important for student learning
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Teacher name supression

May 19th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The HoS reports:

A woman who, while a teenager, was preyed upon by her physics teacher for sex during extra-curricular sailing classes is pleading with authorities to make details of the case public.

She says publishing the man’s name may encourage any other victims to come forward.

The Teachers’ Council Disciplinary Tribunal struck the teacher off and said it was in no doubt that the 18-month full sexual relationship took place in the late 1980s when the woman was aged 16.

However, the tribunal’s decision late last year was published without the teacher’s name. Chairman Kenneth Johnston rejected the woman’s application to publish it because, he said, “particular reasons” were needed to justify publication.

It is the case that has become the face of a Herald on Sunday push for more transparency of teacher disciplinary hearings.

The paper has formally applied for the case’s details to be made public and asked the council to rewrite its rules so it does not start from a point of automatic suppression.

Absolutely. Suppression should be the exception, not the rule.

For the first time, we can reveal that the victim in the test case – who the Herald on Sunday has chosen not to name – fully supports our application.

She contacted the paper in the wake of the publicity, and gave us a copy of a letter she has written to the Teachers’ Council.

It says: “Indeed, it was a newspaper article about a different teacher at another school which first prompted me to action, realising that I could have the potential to prevent further crimes being committed by the individual who targeted me, and it has always been my wish that this teacher be publicly named, to prevent his re-offending in the future.”

Publishing his name could prompt any other victims to come forward, the woman believes.

It is about preventing further victims.

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Go Edge

March 22nd, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Jody O’Callaghan at Stuff reports:

Secrecy surrounding disciplining teachers is under scrutiny by MPs, with a lawyer asking that teachers face as much transparency as doctors and lawyers.

Not unreasonable.

Wellington barrister Graeme Edgeler’s complaint about the Teachers Council’s blanket suppression on disciplinary decisions was heard by a parliamentary select committee yesterday.

Teachers Council rules state that no-one, media or otherwise, can publish details of a decision on a teacher’s bad conduct. The council argues that that avoids deterring victims, particularly children, from coming forward to give evidence.

But Mr Edgeler said the presumption should always be openness.

“These rules are wrong. It’s the Teachers Council taking upon itself something that Parliament should be doing and has done in other situations.”

The Regulations Review Committee can effectively rescind the regulation made by the Teachers Council. Hopefully the Council will amend its own rules but …

Teachers Council director Peter Lind said: “Changing the rules . . . could have the unintended consequence of people, particularly children, not coming forward to give evidence.”

Oh nonsense. You really think that the 12 year old lid won’t tell their parents about something bad a teacher did because they’re aware of the rules around name suppression that the Teachers Council has?

PPTA president Angela Roberts said the suppression of disciplinary details was to protect vulnerable victims, particularly in small communities.

Oh, yes of course it is. To protect the victims. How about you don’t name the victims, but do name the teachers.

The point Edgeler is making is that a blanket rule is wrong. Sure if the teacher is the sole teacher in a small school of 10 pupils, then you might consider name suppression is necessary to protect the victims. But you don’t need a blanket rule, such as the Council has. Suppression should be the exception – not the rule.

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Please tell me this isn’t true

March 4th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes in the HoS:

I know I would have a lot to learn if I wanted to teach in a school. But I don’t understand why the Teachers Council gets to demand that prospective teachers attend Auckland University for a full year to get a Graduate Diploma in Teaching before doing so.

I already have three degrees, have taught science and economics at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, have worked in a successful merchant bank and have some knowledge of government and its operation.

In some capacity I would have something to teach students. But I can’t. The Teachers Council declares I must complete a diploma that includes a course called EDPROFST 612, which “explores questions relating to … the Treaty of Waitangi and the socio-political influences that shape the interconnections between learning and context”.

This might explain a lot!

I am amazed we have the many good teachers that we do. But I wonder how many potentially good teachers the Teachers Council and their asinine courses and processes have driven away.

I like the Teach for America programme where top graduates spend two years or more working as teachers, after a five week summer training course.

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Well done Edge

January 21st, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Graeme Edgeler blogs:

I read David Farrar’s post on the secrecy with which the New Zealand Teachers Council Disciplinary Tribunal conducts its hearings, and, like David, was disturbed with what I read in Kathryn Powley’s Herald on Sunday article. The Teachers Council Disciplinary Tribunal doesn’t just claim a power to suppress sensitive information, but rather has rules which automatically suppress all information, instead allowing people to seek official permission before publishing particular information.

David observed that “…the rule should be repealed or amended. If the Council won’t do so, then the enabling legislation should be amended.”

My first thought was to comment in agreement with his general observation: secrecy should not be the default position. My second, to point out that his proposed solution of amending the enabling legislation was excessive, when you could just ask Parliament to vote to disallow, or amend the rule – it’s the rule, not the primary legislation, that is the problem.

For some reason I thought the power of regulations review was about regulations made by Cabinet or core Government departments. But it seems not. So Graeme has taken action:

So instead of just writing a blog post, what follows below is a complaint I sent to Parliament’s Regulations Review Committee yesterday evening.

Any member of Parliament can move a motion to amend, or disallow a regulation, but the Regulations Review Committee is empowered to inquire into subordinate legislation, and a successful complaint to that Committee is a good way to get the rest of Parliament to take notice of your concerns. It operates on a more consensual basis than ordinary select committees, but the individual members of the Committee (currently three National and two Labour), have a special power that other members of Parliament don’t have. If one of them moves a motion of disallowance, the House has to vote on it, or the motion succeeds.

So if one or more members of that committee move to disallow the regulation, then it will be automatically disallowed unless the House schedules time to debate the motion.

It will be very interesting to see what happens. Will the Teachers Council amend their rule before the Regulations Review Committee considers the rule?

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The secrecy must go

January 20th, 2013 at 8:51 am by David Farrar

Kathryn Powley at HoS reports:

A physical education teacher at a Christian school has admitted to an inappropriate relationship with a 17-year-old student – one of 11 teachers found guilty of serious misconduct last year whose actions have been permanently suppressed.

The New Zealand Teachers Council has posted a warning advising the public and media it is illegal to publish details of disciplinary proceedings.

The warning is based on a little-known blanket suppression rule that has never been enforced, and is more draconian than the rules used by the criminal courts and most disciplinary bodies.

The Teachers Council Disciplinary Tribunal has suspended the PE teacher’s practising certificate for three years, and has ordered him to tell prospective employers of the offence if he returns to teaching.

However because of the new warning we can’t report his name. Nor can we report his school. Strictly speaking, the Herald on Sunday shouldn’t be reporting the misconduct and suspension at all.

Teachers Council (Conduct) Rule 32(1), set in place under statute in 2004, means nobody may publish any details of a tribunal decision. That means any reports you’ve read in newspapers or seen on television are against the law.

Media organisations were unaware of this rule until late last year, when the crystal-clear warning was posted on the tribunal’s website.

“No person or organisation may publish any report or account of a hearing, publish any part of any document, record, or other information produced at a hearing, and/or publish the name, or any particulars of the affairs, of any party or witness at a hearing.”

That means communities may not be told about the two teachers found guilty of physically abusing students last year, another one found to have sexually abused a vulnerable student, six teachers who were found guilty of theft or fraud, one who tried to get a gang member to “cap” her principal, not to mention the PE teacher in the inappropriate relationship.

Some of these teachers were struck from the teachers’ register last year, others were allowed to return to the classroom – but the community is barred from knowing about any of them.

Herald on Sunday editor Bryce Johns wrote this week to the tribunal’s chairperson, Alison McAlpine, urging that action be taken to amend this rule and others.

I agree, the rule should be repealed or amended. If the Council won’t do so, then the enabling legislation should be amended.

The tribunal’s rules mean all hearings are held in private and all parties are anonymised, unless the tribunal approves an application otherwise. Anybody may apply to the Disciplinary Tribunal for the PE teacher and his school to be named.

Lind said the reason for strict rules around publishing was because key witnesses were almost always children or young people who had been through a traumatic event. Anonymity was one way of assuring parents and innocent children they could come forward.

But Lind said he would support a change that allowed the council to impose suppression orders case by case, instead of details being suppressed automatically.

That is how it should be. Secrecy should not be the default.

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Allowed to remain a teacher

December 19th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

I am staggered. The Herald reports:

A teacher tried to hire a gang member to assault her principal because she was being hassled about lies she told to the school, a disciplinary hearing has found.

So she hired a gang member to assault her principal and she lies to her school.

The disciplinary tribunal heard the teacher also fabricated grades for work not done by students, forged the head of department’s signature, and lied about what classes she had taught.

And she fabricates grades, forges signatures and lies about classes taught.

The disciplinary hearing was to establish if she should be deregistered as a teacher.

The tribunal said the “difficult decision” in the case was whether the responsibilities to the public and the profession could be met without deregistering the teacher.

“We have concluded that we can [meet those responsibilities] but only after very careful consideration and by the finest of margins,” the report says.

Yet the Teachers Council says she can continue as a teacher!! What do you have to do to be degregistered? Actually have the gang member do the kneecapping?

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