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Queensland College of Teachers v Teacher BRT[2019] QCAT 12

Queensland College of Teachers v Teacher BRT[2019] QCAT 12

QUEENSLAND CIVIL AND ADMINISTRATIVE TRIBUNAL

CITATION:

Queensland College of Teachers v Teacher BRT [2019] QCAT 12

PARTIES:

QUEENSLAND COLLEGE OF TEACHERS

(applicant)

v

TEACHER BRT

(respondent)

APPLICATION NO:

OCR160-18

MATTER TYPE:

Occupational regulation matters

DELIVERED ON:

22 January 2019

HEARING DATE:

On the papers

HEARD AT:

Brisbane

DECISION OF:

Presiding Member Hughes

Member Kanowski Member Grigg

ORDERS:

  1. The teacher’s registration is cancelled.
  2. The teacher is prohibited from applying for registration or permission to teach for a period of three years from the date of her suspension on 29 January 2018.
  3. A notation is to be entered in the register of teachers that should the teacher apply for registration or permission to teach after the expiry of the cancellation period, the application must include an independent psychologist’s report satisfactory to the Queensland College of Teachers addressing the following:
    1. (a)
      An assessment of the teacher’s appreciation of the following:
      1. Differentiating between personal and professional relationships;
      2. The legal obligations of teachers and tutors;
      3. Development and maintenance of professional standards when working with young people and actively determining and implementing professional boundaries with individual students;
      4. Risk assessment and early issue identification of potentially problematic situations and venues as well as initiating realistic solutions for avoiding the risk of harm to students;
      5. The extent and nature of the trust inherently invested in a teacher by students, colleagues, parents and the community;
      6. Personal and social behaviour that would compromise the professional standing of a teacher and the profession of teaching;
      7. The effect of inappropriate relationships with students;
      8. The trust and power granted to a teacher;
      1. (b)
        The importance of full adherence to the Queensland College of Teachers’ Code of Ethics;
      2. (c)
        Confirmation that the psychologist is satisfied that the teacher has adequately understood and addressed points 3(a) and (b);
      3. (d)
        The status of the teacher’s current mental health, including details of any therapy since the date of the disciplinary decision.
      4. (e)
        Confirmation that the psychologist was provided with copies of:
        1. This decision; and
        2. The referral under section 97 of the Education (Queensland College of Teachers) Act 2005 (Qld).
      1. The publication of any information that could identify the child, teacher and school in any way is prohibited.

CATCHWORDS:

EDUCATION – TRAINING AND REGISTRATION OF TEACHERS – where teacher communicated expressions of intimacy to student and engaged in inappropriate physical contact with student – whether ground for disciplinary action – where mitigating factors included cooperating with disciplinary process, teacher not previously subject of disciplinary proceedings and teacher young and relatively inexperienced - where aggravating factors included behaviour not isolated and occurring over period and lack of remorse and insight – where no evidence of counselling – where prohibition period of three years appropriate sanction with notation on register for psychological assessment

ADMINISTRATIVE LAW ADMINISTRATIVE TRIBUNALSQUEENSLAND              CIVIL              AND ADMINISTRATIVE TRIBUNAL – non-publication order – where not in public interest to publicly identify child or school – where child vulnerable and prone to depression – where publication could harm child by affecting his reputation and lead to further victimisation

Education (Queensland College of Teachers) Act 2005 (Qld), s 3, s 160

Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (Qld), s 66

Legal Services Commissioner v Laurie [2011] QCAT 335 Queensland College of Teachers v A Teacher [2011] QCAT 225

Queensland College of Teachers v Ashton [2010] QCAT 80

Queensland College of Teachers v Banyai [2013] QCAT 180

Queensland College of Teachers v Brady [2011] QCAT 464

Queensland College of Teachers v Eldridge [2013] QCAT 683

Queensland College of Teachers v DRR [2012] QCAT 671

Queensland College of Teachers v DTJ [2015] QCAT 443

Queensland College of Teachers v Genge [2011] QCAT 163

Queensland College of Teachers v McNamara [2010] QCAT 442

Queensland College of Teachers v Teacher QKE [2013] QCAT 548

Queensland College of Teachers v TSV [2015] QCAT 186

Queensland College of Teachers v Utz [2015] QCAT 247 Queensland College of Teachers v WAS [2015] QCAT 61 Teacher J v Queensland College of Teachers [2012] QCATA 115

REPRESENTATION:

Applicant:

C Lloyd, Principal Legal Officer of the Queensland College of Teachers

Respondent:

A Knott, solicitor of Holding Redlich

APPEARANCES:

 

This matter was heard and determined on the papers pursuant to section 32 of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (Qld) (‘QCAT Act’).

REASONS FOR DECISION

What is this Application about?

  1. [1]
    Teacher BRT engaged in inappropriate behaviour with a student that included:
    1. (a)
      Regular text exchanges during class time;
    2. (b)
      Upon the student graduating:
      1. (i)
        Communicating expressions of ‘love’ via text and Snapchat;
      2. (ii)
        Allowing the student to stay overnight at her and her husband’s residence;
      3. (iii)
        Attending at the student’s residence and cooking dinner for him and his housemates;
      4. (iv)
        Attending a music festival with the student and later staying overnight at the student’s residence where they engaged in sexualised physical contact;
      5. (v)
        Staying overnight at the student’s residence on two occasions;
      6. (vi)
        Telephoning the student and meeting the student alone at a coffee shop;
      7. (vii)
        Attending at the student’s residence and studying alone in his bedroom; and
      8. (viii)
        Attending at the student’s residence and engaging in sexualised physical contact that included kissing.
  2. [2]
    Both the Queensland College of Teachers and the teacher agree that a ground for disciplinary action has been established and the Tribunal finds accordingly. We are satisfied that the above behaviour does not meet the standard of behaviour generally expected of a teacher and raises serious boundary violations.
  3. [3]
    For the reasons that follow, the Tribunal has determined cancellation is appropriate, and that the teacher is prohibited from reapplying for registration for a period of three years from the date of her suspension on 29 January 2018.

What is the appropriate sanction?

  1. [4]
    The Tribunal has an overriding discretion to impose the sanction it considers most appropriate in the circumstances.[1]
  2. [5]
    In determining sanction, we accept the following mitigating factors:
  1. (a)
    The teacher has cooperated with the disciplinary process and thereby not required the student to undergo the ordeal of giving oral evidence at a full hearing;
  2. (b)
    The teacher has not been the subject of previous disciplinary proceedings;
  3. (c)
    The most serious conduct occurred after the student’s graduation; and
  4. (d)
    The teacher’s youth and relative inexperience,[2]being 26 years old and registered for a period of just over four years when she started the conduct.
  1. [6]
    The College cited a number of authorities to assist us determine sanction.[3]All of these had prohibition periods between 19 months (Eldridge) and two and a half years (DRR).
  2. [7]
    In Eldridge, a 24-year-old teacher engaged in a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old former student within two months of the teaching relationship and was prohibited from teaching for a period of 19 months. The Tribunal specifically noted remorse, insight, and psychological issues among the mitigating factors.
  3. [8]
    Unlike Eldridge, Teacher BRT has not expressed insight or remorse into her behaviour nor is there evidence of mental health issues. As recently as 20 July 2018 Teacher BRT did not concede that ‘any conduct by her falls short of any relevant standard’ and sought to minimise aspects of her behaviour,[4]by attempting to shift the power imbalance away from herself:

“… [the student] asked if he could kiss me, I consented and he did so.”[5]

 

  1. [9]
    In DRR, a 31-year-old teacher sent sexual texts to a student and was prohibited from teaching for a period of two and a half years with a notation for a psychological report. However Teacher BRT’s behaviour is more culpable than DRR because her behaviour extended to physical contact with the student and therefore warrants a longer prohibition than two and a half years.
  2. [10]
    Teacher BRT’s focus was on the student’s behaviour rather than her own. She has not shown any insight or remorse. Her behaviour extended to expressions of intimacy, inappropriate physical contact, and was not isolated but occurred over a period. These are aggravating factors warranting a prohibition period longer than in the cases cited.
  3. [11]
    Overall, we are of the view that Teacher BRT’s behaviour showed a pattern of serious boundary violations over an extended period, aggravated by her lack of insight and remorse. She placed her own feelings above her paramount duties to uphold standards and maintain public confidence in the teaching profession. The community expects a teacher to have sufficient insight to know that this behaviour can harm young people.[6]Her behaviour was wrong because of the inherent power imbalance.
  1. [12]
    The purpose of these disciplinary proceedings is not to punish but to protect children and the community.[7]The objects of the Act are to uphold the standards of the teaching profession, maintain public confidence in the teaching profession and protect the public.[8]
  2. [13]
    The College and the teacher agreed that it is appropriate that the teacher’s registration be cancelled with a prohibition period of between 24 to 48 months from the date of the teacher’s original suspension on 24 January 2018. The Tribunal considers that the middle of this range is sufficient to achieve the Act’s objects. Preventing Teacher BRT from teaching for a period of three years will convey the Tribunal’s strong disapproval of her behaviour, deter others, and allow her to reflect on why it is not appropriate and its impact on the student and her profession.[9]
  3. [14]
    The Act’s objects are therefore fulfilled by cancelling Teacher BRT’s registration and prohibiting her from re-applying for registration for a period of three years from the date of cancellation on 29 January 2018.
  4. [15]
    The Tribunal had no evidence of Teacher BRT undergoing counselling or other professional courses relating to the conduct. The Tribunal is concerned about Teacher BRT’s apparent lack of insight. We will therefore include a notation requiring Teacher BRT to provide a psychological assessment with any application for registration.

Is a non-publication order appropriate?

  1. [16]
    It is not in the public interest to publicly identify the child or school. The child is vulnerable and prone to depression. Publication of identifying details could harm the child by affecting his reputation and lead to further victimisation.
  2. [17]
    We therefore consider it is in the interests of justice to make an order prohibiting the publication of any information in these proceedings that could identify the children in any way, [10]including their names and addresses, the teacher and the school involved.

What are the appropriate Orders?

  1. [18]
    The appropriate Orders are:
    1. (a)
      The teacher’s registration is cancelled.
    2. (b)
      The teacher is prohibited from applying for registration or permission to teach for a period of three years from the date of her suspension on 29 January 2018.
    3. (c)
      A notation is to be entered in the register of teachers that should the teacher apply for registration or permission to teach after the expiry of the cancellation period, the application must include an independent psychologist’s report satisfactory to the Queensland College of Teachers addressing the following:
  1. (i)
    An assessment of the teacher’s appreciation of the following:
    1. Differentiating between personal and professional relationships;
    2. The legal obligations of teachers and tutors;
    3. Development and maintenance of professional standards when working with young people and actively determining and implementing professional boundaries with individual students;
    4. Risk assessment and early issue identification of potentially problematic situations and venues as well as initiating realistic solutions for avoiding the risk of harm to students;
    5. The extent and nature of the trust inherently invested in a teacher by students, colleagues, parents and the community;
    6. Personal and social behaviour that would compromise the professional standing of a teacher and the profession of teaching;
    7. The effect of inappropriate relationships with students;
    8. The trust and power granted to a teacher;
  2. (ii)
    The importance of full adherence to the Queensland College of Teachers’ Code of Ethics;
  3. (iii)
    Confirmation that the psychologist is satisfied that the teacher has adequately understood points 3(a) and (b);
  4. (iv)
    The status of the teacher’s current mental health, including details of any therapy since the date of the disciplinary decision.
  5. (v)
    Confirmation that the psychologist was provided with copies of:
    1. This decision; and
    2. The referral under section 97 of the Education (Queensland College of Teachers) Act 2005 (Qld).
  1. (d)
    The publication of any information that could identify the child, teacher and school in any way is prohibited.

Footnotes

[1] Education (Queensland College of Teachers) Act 2005 (Qld), s 160 (‘the Act’).

[2] Queensland College of Teachers v WAS [2015] QCAT 61, [38].

[3] Queensland College of Teachers v Ashton [2010] QCAT 80; Queensland College of Teachers v A Teacher [2011] QCAT 225; Queensland College of Teachers v McNamara [2010] QCAT 442; Queensland College of Teachers v Brady [2011] QCAT 464; Teacher J v Queensland College of Teachers [2012] QCATA 115; Queensland College of Teachers v DRR [2012] QCAT 671 (‘DRR’); Queensland College of Teachers v Teacher QKE [2013] QCAT 548; Queensland College of Teachers v Eldridge [2013] QCAT 683 (‘Eldridge’).

[4] Response dated 20 July 2018.

[5] Response dated 20 July 2018, [2(i)].

[6] Queensland College of Teachers v DTJ [2015] QCAT 443, [31].

[7] Queensland College of Teachers v Genge [2011] QCAT 163, [12]; Queensland College of Teachers v Banyai [2013] QCAT 180, [21].

[8] Education (Queensland College of Teachers) Act 2005 (Qld), s 3(1).

[9] Legal Services Commissioner v Laurie [2011] QCAT 335, [16]; Queensland College of Teachers v TSV [2015] QCAT 186, [25].

[10] Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (Qld), s 66.

Close

Editorial Notes

  • Published Case Name:

    Queensland College of Teachers v Teacher BRT

  • Shortened Case Name:

    Queensland College of Teachers v Teacher BRT

  • MNC:

    [2019] QCAT 12

  • Court:

    QCAT

  • Judge(s):

    Presiding Member Hughes, Member Kanowski, Member Grigg

  • Date:

    22 Jan 2019

Appeal Status

Please note, appeal data is presently unavailable for this judgment. This judgment may have been the subject of an appeal.

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