Teacher censured for using force on student who threatened to kill him

A rural high school teacher with an “exemplary” 28-year record has been censured for using force against a Year 10 student who threatened to kill him.

The teacher, whose name and school are suppressed, held the student against a wall and slapped his face.

The Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal has ruled that the teacher used “unjustified or unreasonable physical force”, but stopped short of deregistering him.

The incident on September 18, 2019, started when the student tried to leave the class because it was 3.15pm, but the teacher, referred to as Teacher D, told him to wait until the bell went.

“The student began to leave the room. He swore at Teacher D while doing so,” the tribunal said.

“As the student exited the classroom into the hallway, Teacher D reached for and grabbed the student’s arm and told him to wait like the rest of the students.

“The student swore at Teacher D and told Teacher D to let go of him. Teacher D let the student go, Teacher D took offence at the student swearing and told him not to talk to him in that manner.

“The student then swore at Teacher D who threatened him with words to the effect that he would f— him up.

“The student said, ‘I’ll f—-n kill you,’ to Teacher D.

“In response, Teacher D again grabbed the student and told him that he would do the same to him and pushed the student up against a wall by his collar.

“As Teacher D held the student against the wall, Teacher D had his hand drawn back as if he was ready to hit the student. There was a general struggle involving mutual pushing and shoving between the two.

“While Teacher D held the student against the wall, the student kicked or shinned Teacher D around his left leg or thigh area and then tried to throw a punch. Teacher D blocked the punch and then struck the student on the cheek with his hand.

“The bell went and the student left. The strike to the student’s face did not cause any injury or markings.”

Some students said the teacher “punched” the student in the face, but the teacher told the tribunal that his action was a “quick tap”, a “flick” or a “jab” with the back of the hand.

“Teacher D accepted that what he has done was wrong and has said that he is ‘truly sorry and apologetic’,” the tribunal said.

“Teacher D said that he had never physically reached for or grabbed a student as described in this incident in his 28 years as a teacher and that it was very out of character.”

He said his reaction “may be a consequence of his high blood pressure and/or testosterone”.

The tribunal said the teacher’s response “and the obvious loss of self-control despite the obvious provocation reflects adversely on the respondent’s fitness to be a teacher”.

“He could have, should have, walked away and de-escalated the situation,” it said.

However it decided not to cancel his teaching registration because of “mitigating factors” including the student’s assault on him, the facts that he reported the incident immediately and expressed remorse, and his “exemplary and long history of teaching and contributing to the college”.

Instead, he was censured and ordered to undergo professional mentoring and supervision for a year, complete courses on anger and conflict management and inform any employers he works for in the next two years about the tribunal’s ruling.

His name was suppressed to protect the identity of the student in “a small town of around 5000 people with only a handful of schools”.

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