A primary school teacher who was dismissed for using ‘unacceptable force’ with children has been reinstated – and the WA Industrial Relations Commission ruled the investigation procedure was flawed from the get-go.
The Education Department claimed that the teacher with 25 years’ experience posed “an unacceptable risk to children” and showed “a propensity to the use of force”. Yet Acting senior commissioner Pamela Scott found their assessment harsh and unfair, and said the teacher had been denied procedural fairness.
Commissioner Scott said the erroneous and exaggerated briefing note from a senior investigator had influenced Education Department director-general Sharyn O'Neill's decision to dismiss the employee. The sacking followed a breach of discipline in 2011, when the department alleged the teacher had forcibly removed a child's hands from his pockets and shoved him off a basketball court, causing him to stumble but not fall.
The incident followed a separate investigation from 2010, when the teacher was fined two days’ pay after lifting a student by the upper arms and carrying him across a classroom, causing red welts and making him cry. Two other minor discipline breaches were also recorded in 2010.
Yet the teacher argued he had not been given the opportunity to respond to prejudicial and incorrect assertions in briefing notes because he was not provided a copy of them – in turn the commissioner also determined there were not sufficient grounds to justify dismissal.
The Education Department said the teacher was re-employed at a different school after the commission ordered a reinstatment.