Teacher faced with ‘hitting and secrecy’ allegations wins unfair dismissal case

'I did not, and would never have, behaved in the manner alleged'

Teacher faced with ‘hitting and secrecy’ allegations wins unfair dismissal case

The New South Wales’ Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) recently dealt with an unfair dismissal case involving a teacher of special needs children who allegedly engaged in physical and verbal misconduct in the workplace.

In her defence, the worker denied engaging in serious misconduct involving students.

“I did not, and would never have, behaved in the manner alleged,” the worker said.

Hitting and secrecy allegations

According to the Commission, the worker was employed as an assistant principal and was directed to undertake non-teaching alternative duties. Prior to her dismissal and the allegations thrown at her, the worker performed her work diligently and was never subjected to any disciplinary or performance processes.

However, in January 2019, one of the teachers disclosed concerns about possibly inappropriate practices at their school, which involved numerous staff including the assistant principal.

Consequently, the school thoroughly investigated the matter and submitted several allegations involving the worker, which led to her dismissal.

The employer alleged that the worker had unnecessary physical contact with a student. The teacher reportedly used her hand to bend or twist a student by the wrist because the latter would not obey the worker’s direction to “get up” from the ground.

In 2017, the employer also argued that while demonstrating to a classroom teacher how to manage a support student’s behavior, the worker allegedly hit the student in the face on her chin.

In the same incident, the worker allegedly took the student by the chin and squeezed her face, saying, “See what I am doing? This way she will remember when you touch her face what you did to her.” The worker then instructed the classroom teacher to conceal such improper conduct.

Lastly, during a general meeting with several classroom teachers, the employer contended that the worker improperly instructed the school staff to use coercive physical contact toward students.

Meanwhile, the assistant principal rejected her employer’s allegations and denied ever using excessive force on the students.

The Commission’s decision

Ultimately, the IRC found that the alleged conduct against the worker, including the hitting, secrecy, and wrist allegations, was insufficient to prove that the incidents occurred. 

In its decision, it noted that the employer failed to prove that the worker engaged in a series of misconducts, citing weak witnesses and evidence:

“I have decided that the evidence… about the hitting and secrecy allegation is not credible. It is inherently unlikely the appellant would engage in the conduct, and the objective circumstances do not support [one worker’s] account of what was alleged occurring. I have additionally found… [this] witness lacking in credibility.”

Hence, the Commission said the worker’s employment relationship with the school was not terminated. 

The Commission also ordered the removal of the worker’s name on the employer’s “Do Not Employ List.”

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