I was just catching up on reading a million emails and stumbled upon this from the VIT
Findings of a recent Institute formal hearing, with some key lessons.
A teacher was alleged to have engaged in inappropriate contact with two students via telephone, text
and Facebook. This included inappropriate comments, sending several photographs and asking for photographs to be sent in return, sending a copy of internal communication with the Assistant Principal to a student and communicating frequently after school hours and in some instances very late at night.
In giving evidence, the Principal said in nine years at the school the teacher had been an excellent classroom teacher and Year Level Coordinator (as well as Subject Coordinator) but there were concerns regarding being too friendly with students.
On the balance of probabilities the Panel found the allegations largely substantiated in that the teacher failed to treat both students with courtesy and dignity.
The substantiated allegations demonstrate clear and significant breaches of Principle 1.2 of the Code of Conduct and as such constitute misconduct. That the teacher claimed their actions were motivated by an intention to support two vulnerable students also brings into question the teacher’s understanding of Principle 1.3 of the Code of Conduct, namely whether they worked within the limits of their professional expertise.
The Panel found a higher standard of care and responsibility to students is required to be displayed by a teacher with a senior pastoral care responsibility. Therefore the Panel concluded that the substantiated allegations amounted to serious misconduct within the context of section 2.4.46 of the Act.
As the teacher was not currently registered with the Institute, having resigned in 2010, there was no basis to cancel or suspend the teacher’s registration. However, had the teacher been currently registered, the Panel would have imposed conditions on the teacher’s registration. As guidance for the teacher, should they seek to reapply for teacher registration in the future, the likely conditions would have required the teacher to receive counselling from a registered psychologist. Some of the aims of this counselling would include:
• development of coping strategies to better handle any future challenging personal or professional circumstances
• differentiating between the personal and professional roles of a teacher
• developing a comprehensive understanding of the Institute’s Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct, and where the teacher’s conduct fell short of what is required
Today’s multi-faceted, instantly accessible modes of communication, such as texting and Facebook, outline the need to be very clear about the professional boundaries of a teacher’s relationship with students. Principal 1.5 of the Code of Conduct states: “Teachers can be friendly with students, but their relationship is always professional and, as such, should never be on a personal footing.” Further information can be found on the Institute website, including discussion of the question:
What sort of communication should you have with students outside of school?
This hearing also demonstrates that an investigation can be conducted after a teacher has resigned and advised the Institute that they no longer wish to be registered. If a teacher is facing allegations, resigning from their job or letting their registration lapse would not necessarily preclude an investigation occurring.
Findings of formal hearings are published on the Institute website at http://www.vit.vic.edu.au