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Queensland College of Teachers v Teacher CYS[2019] QCAT 299

Queensland College of Teachers v Teacher CYS[2019] QCAT 299

QUEENSLAND CIVIL AND ADMINISTRATIVE TRIBUNAL

CITATION:

Queensland College of Teachers v Teacher CYS [2019] QCAT 299

PARTIES:

QUEENSLAND COLLEGE OF TEACHERS

 

(applicant)

 

v

 

TEACHER CYS 

 

(respondent)

APPLICATION NO/S:

OCR320-18

MATTER TYPE:

Occupational regulation matters

DELIVERED ON:

1 October 2019

HEARING DATE:

On the papers

HEARD AT:

Brisbane

DECISION OF:

Member Traves (Presiding Member)

Member Goodman

Member Grigg

ORDERS:

  1. The ground for disciplinary action in s 92(1)(h) of the Education (Queensland College of Teachers) Act 2005 (Qld) is established.
  2. CYS is prohibited from applying for registration or permission to teach for a period of two years from the date of this order.
  3. The following notation is to be entered into the register: 
  1. CYS is prohibited from applying for registration until the following requirements are met:
  1. (i)
    CYS has undertaken treatment for her alcohol dependence with a psychiatrist specialising in addiction medicine, nominated by CYS and approved in writing by the Queensland College of Teachers (‘QCT’); 
  2. (ii)
    CYS has provided the psychiatrist with a copy of the Tribunal’s orders and the Tribunal’s reasons for its decision;
  1. (iii)
    The treatment must have been at the frequency and for the duration determined by the psychiatrist; 
  2. (iv)
    CYS must have been fully compliant with the treatment, including following all directions and taking any medications as prescribed by the psychiatrist, for a period of not less than six months immediately prior to lodging the application with QCT; 
  3. (v)
    CYS must have undergone monthly haematological testing [Carbohydrate Deficient Transferrin (CDT), Liver Function Test (LFT) and Mean Corpuscular Volume (MCV)] , or other testing as determined by the psychiatrist, to demonstrate total abstinence from alcohol consumption during the six month period referred to in (d) above, or such longer period as determined by the psychiatrist: 
  1. (vi)
    CYS has provided to QCT a report from the treating psychiatrist(s) for alcohol dependence and mental health conditions addressing the following: 
  1. current diagnosis;
  2. treatment undertaken; 
  3. the results of the monthly haematological testing  during the six month period, or such longer period as determined by the psychiatrist; 
  4. suitability to teach and to work as a teacher;  
  5. an assessment of the likelihood of CYS engaging in similar types of behaviour as outlined in the disciplinary decision in the future; 
  6. an assessment of CYS’s awareness of personal and social behaviour that would compromise the professional standing of a teacher and the profession of teaching; and 
  7. CYS’s understanding of and commitment to full adherence to the QCT Code of Ethics. 
  1. The following conditions must be  imposed upon any future registration of CYS for a period of not less than 12 months: 
  1. (a)
    CYS must remain totally abstinent from alcohol; 
  2. (b)
    CYS must undergo monthly haematological testing, or any other testing as determined by the psychiatrist, to demonstrate total abstinence from alcohol consumption during the 12 month period from the date of registration. Such testing shall commence within seven days of registration; 
  3. (c)
    CYS must continue treatment with her treating psychiatrist at the frequency and for the duration determined by the psychiatrist. CYS must be fully compliant with the treatment, including all directions and taking any medications prescribed by the psychiatrist; 
  4. (d)
    CYS will authorise the psychiatrist to report to QCT as to her health status as the psychiatrist sees fit, or as requested by the QCT; 
  5. (e)
    CYS must notify her treating psychiatrist and QCT immediately upon becoming aware of any material change in her health.
  1. CYS is to pay all costs of and associated with compliance with these Orders. 
  2. Publication of any information which may identify CYS  is prohibited, except to the parties to the proceeding and except that the identify of CYS may be published to:
  1. (a)
    any employer who employs, or is considering employing, CYS in a teaching role, or in child related employment;
  2. (b)
    CYS’ current or future health practitioners;
  3. (c)
    other regulatory authorities; and 
  4. (d)
    the Chief Executive (employment screening).

CATCHWORDS:

EDUCATION – EDUCATORS – DISCIPLINARY MATTERS – GOVERNMENT INSTITUTIONS – inappropriate conduct arising from use of alcohol – where teacher suspended – whether grounds for disciplinary action established – where teacher consumed Valium and alcohol and became unconscious whilst supervising grade 2 students – where teacher consumed vodka while supervising students – where teacher drove from the school while intoxicated – where teacher collapsed at school with a blood alcohol level of 0.34 and taken to hospital by ambulance – whether teacher behaved in a way that does not satisfy the standard of behaviour generally expected of a teacher under s 92(1)(h) of the Education (Queensland College of Teachers) Act 2005 (Qld)

Education (Queensland College of Teachers) Act 2005 (Qld), s 3, s 92(1)(h), s 97, s 158, s 161 

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

Briginshaw v Briginshaw (1938) HCA 34

Medical Radiation Technologists Board of Queensland v Sanderson [2012] QCAT 107

Queensland College of Teachers v Armstrong [2010] QCAT 709

Queensland College of Teachers v Teacher BYJ [2018]

QCAT 107

Queensland College of Teachers v FAS [2017] QCAT 226

Queensland College of Teachers v Mills [2015] QCAT 476

Queensland College of Teachers v Lobo [2019] QCAT 26

Queensland College of Teachers v PPK [2019] QCAT 59

Queensland College of Teachers v TSV [2015] QCAT 186

Queensland College of Teachers v Teacher BAM [2012]

QCAT 694

Queensland College of Teachers v WAS [2015] QCAT 61

REPRESENTATION:

Applicant:

Steven Metcalfe

Respondent:

D Dupree, A/Principal Legal Officer, Queensland College of Teachers

APPEARANCES:

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

REASONS FOR DECISION

  1. [1]
    This matter arises from a mandatory referral by the Queensland College of Teachers (‘QCT’) to the Tribunal under s 97 of the Education (Queensland College of Teachers) Act 2005 (Qld) (‘the Education Act’). Under s 97, if the QCT reasonably believes that one or more grounds for disciplinary action against a relevant teacher exists, the QCT must refer the matter to the Tribunal. 
  1. [2]
    Section 92 of the Education Act sets out the grounds for disciplinary action against a relevant teacher in Queensland. ‘Relevant teacher’ is defined in Schedule 3 to include a ‘former approved teacher’, being a teacher who was a registered teacher when the relevant conduct occurred but is no longer a registered teacher. The teacher the subject of the referral, CYS, is a former approved teacher, having been registered from 21 January 2005 until 9 April 2019, when her registration was cancelled due to nonpayment of the annual registration fee.
  1. [3]
    The relevant ground for disciplinary action is s 92(1)(h), which is established where a person:

…behaves in a way, whether connected with the teaching profession or otherwise, that does not satisfy the standard of behaviour generally expected of a teacher.

  1. [4]
    The issues to be determined by the Tribunal are:
  1. whether the disciplinary ground in s 92(1)(h) is established; and
  2. if so, the appropriate sanction to be applied. 
  1. [5]
    The parties filed an ‘Agreed Statement of Facts and Issues for the Tribunal’ on 13 May 2019. QCT and CYS agree that the following relevant conduct occurred: 
  1. (a)
    On the morning of 31st August 2016, CYS took some Valium prior to commencing work as a grade 2/3 teacher to calm herself after having been involved in a domestic altercation with her ex-husband the previous night. On that morning, CYS was teaching science to the grade 2 students from the grade 2/3 class. During the first morning break, CYS went to her car and took more Valium together with a mix of half water and half vodka and returned to the classroom with the bottle of water and vodka. CYS subsequently became unconscious at her desk. Colleagues of CYS called an ambulance and CYS was taken to hospital. Between taking the additional Valium and waking up in hospital, CYS had limited recollection of events. 
  2. (b)
    On 6th September 2016, CYS whilst on duty at the school on at least two occasions (at break times during the day) went to her car and drank from a bottle containing half water and half vodka. CYS also took Valium. The school principal attended CYS’ class after lunch and found CYS sitting at the front of the class with her eyes closed, appearing to be asleep. The Principal took CYS to her office. CYS was speaking slowly, was confused and disorientated. CYS swayed when she walked, and banged into the door when she left the room. Against the advice of the Principal, CYS drove away from school. The Principal notified police and CYS was pulled over, returning a positive result on a breath test of 0.144 grams of alcohol per 210 litres of breath at 5:20pm. CYS was convicted, fined $800 and disqualified from driving for five months. 
  3. (c)
    On 3rd August 2018, whilst engaged as a relief teacher at a primary school, CYS drank alcohol during the day at school. CYS went home at lunch time, took a Valium and drank more alcohol before returning to the school. CYS collapsed near the school library and an ambulance was called. While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, her colleagues could smell alcohol on her breath. CYS was taken to hospital where her blood alcohol level was recorded at 1:59pm that day to be 0.34. The hospital toxicology report indicates that a person with a blood alcohol level of 0.25-0.40 would be in a ‘stupor’ stage. A person with a blood alcohol level of 0.35-0.50 would be in a ‘coma’ stage.
  1. [6]
    The parties also agree that CYS’ conduct fell below the standard of behaviour expected of a teacher and that a ground for disciplinary action is therefore established under s 92(1)(h) of the Education Act. In particular, the parties agree that CYS failed to properly supervise her students, to maintain a safe learning environment for the students, to properly manage and supervise classroom activities and that she put the safety and wellbeing of her students at risk.[1]
  1. [7]
    We find, for the reasons below, that CYS behaved in a way that does not satisfy the standard of behaviour generally expected of a teacher and, accordingly, that the disciplinary ground in s 92(1)(h) has been established.
  1. [8]
    CYS’ conduct has arisen out of her abuse of alcohol over an extended period of time. Her behaviour, as described in the Investigation Report of 2nd October 2018, falls well short of the standard of behaviour necessary to maintain public confidence in the teaching profession. The evidence discloses that, while registered as a teacher, CYS:
  1. (a)
    fell asleep on a computer desk in a grade two science classroom and:
    1. was unaware of an incident involving a child being punched; and
    2. was unable to be roused to a coherent state resulting in an ambulance being called;
  2. (b)
    drunk vodka from a ‘water bottle’ whilst in the classroom;
  3. (c)
    drove her car with her children whilst under the influence of alcohol and was subsequently charged with drink driving having recorded a blood alcohol level of 0.144; and
  4. (d)
    collapsed following the consumption of hand sanitiser disguised in a water bottle.
  1. [9]
    We find these incidents, as well as those detailed in the agreed statement of facts, most concerning. CYS’ performance as a teacher has been seriously compromised due to the consumption of Valium combined with vodka on more than one occasion. CYS has been affected to the point where she has fallen asleep on chair in front of grade 2 students, passed out on her desk and collapsed unconscious outside a school library. Her alcohol level was such that an ambulance needed to be called. The levels of alcohol in her system on at least one occasion was 0.34, which, in itself, is alarming. CYS was, at least on two occasions, supervising young primary school age students at the time she was alcohol affected. CYS clearly was not capable on those occasions of providing adequate supervision or instruction to the students in her care.
  1. [10]
    CYS also exhibited impaired judgment to the point where she placed her own children at serious risk by driving while she was under the influence of alcohol and had been advised not to by the Principal of the school.
  1. [11]
    The behaviour of CYS does not, in our view, satisfy the standard of behaviour generally expected of a teacher and the disciplinary ground in s 92(1)(h) is therefore established.
  1. [12]
    Having found that the ground for disciplinary action is established, we must now determine the appropriate disciplinary sanction. When a ground for disciplinary action is established against a ‘former approved teacher’ the Tribunal may take action under s 161 of the Education Act. These actions include, where the Tribunal would have cancelled the teacher’s registration had he or she been registered, prohibiting reregistration for a stated period or indefinitely.[2] There is also power to order that a particular notation or endorsement about the teacher be entered in the register.[3]
  1. [13]
    For the reasons below we have determined that the appropriate sanction is to prohibit CYS from applying for registration or permission to teach for two years from the date of this order. We agree with the submissions of the QCT as to the need for a notation to be entered on the QCT register regarding prolonged abstinence from alcohol.
  1. [14]
    The purpose of a disciplinary sanction is to further the objects of the Education Act. These are set out in s 3, and include upholding standards in the teaching profession, maintaining public confidence in the profession, and protecting the public by ensuring education is provided in a professional and competent way. Although punishment is not the purpose, general and individual deterrence are legitimate goals.[4]
  1. [15]
    The QCT submitted that CYS should be prohibited from applying for registration for permission to teach for a period of 6-12 months from the date of the original suspension of her teacher registration on 10 September 2018 with a notation to be entered in the register that addressed CYS’ alcohol dependence and mental health issues. 
  1. [16]
    The Tribunal has taken into account the following mitigating factors: 
  1. (a)
    CYS has acknowledged her conduct and is deeply remorseful for her actions;
  2. (b)
    She has entered a long-term rehabilitation service and feels she is ‘on her way to recovery but realises this will take some time’;[5] 
  3. (c)
    CYS has significant personal stressors that have affected her state of mind and, she says, led to her behaviour. These include the breakdown of her marriage, depression and anxiety due to an extremely difficult and traumatic period in her life; and
  4. (d)
    She is now in the care of a psychiatrist who is treating her for a diagnosed mental health condition.
  1. [17]
    The Tribunal is, however, satisfied that CYS should be prohibited from applying for registration for permission to teach for two years from the date of this order. In our view, this is the outcome most consistent with furthering the objects of the Act. This is principally because CYS behaviour was not an isolated incident but a pattern of behaviour which occurred over an extended period of time; it exposed vulnerable children in her care to considerable risk; it exposed children to inappropriate and frightening behaviour. 
  1. [18]
    The two-year prohibition period will allow CYS a reasonable time within which to continue to work towards her goal of abstinence and to ensure that she receives appropriate treatment for her medical conditions.
  1. [19]
    The conditions attached to the reapplication for registration proposed by the QCT are appropriate and allow CYS the opportunity to provide evidence that she is able to sustain a prolonged period of abstinence. We agree that a notation should be imposed on the register in terms similar to those proposed by the parties.

Non-publication order

  1. [20]
    The Tribunal may make an order prohibiting the publication of information that may enable a person who is affected by a proceeding to be identified.[6]
  1. [21]
    We are satisfied that publication of the teacher’s name may endanger the mental health of the teacher within the meaning of s 66(2)(b) of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (Qld). The QCT has submitted that, if a nonpublication order is made which includes the name of the respondent, that it is appropriate to order an exception to the order to assist in the sharing of information for child protection purposes such that the decision and reasons for decision may be published to:
  1. (a)
    any employer who employs, or is considering employing, CYS in a teaching role, or in child-related employment;
  2. (b)
    CYS’ current or future health practitioners; 
  3. (c)
    other teacher regulatory authorities; and
  4. (d)
    the chief executive (employment screening).
  1. [22]
    We agree and have expressed the non-publication order accordingly.
  1. [23]
    We consider a two-year prohibition period from applying for registration is warranted due to the nature of the conduct engaged in by CYS and its potential consequences. Any future application for registration will be considered by QCT if accompanied by the information set out in the Orders.

Footnotes

[1] Agreed Statement of Facts and Issues for the Tribunal, filed on 13 May 2019, [12]. 

[2] Education Act, s 161(2)(c).

[3] Education Act, s 161(2)(d).

[4] Queensland College of Teachers v PPK (No 2) [2019] QCAT 270. 

[5] Respondent response to referral dated 29 January 2019.

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

Close

Editorial Notes

  • Published Case Name:

    Queensland College of Teachers v Teacher CYS

  • Shortened Case Name:

    Queensland College of Teachers v Teacher CYS

  • MNC:

    [2019] QCAT 299

  • Court:

    QCAT

  • Judge(s):

    Member Traves (Presiding Member)

  • Date:

    01 Oct 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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