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Queensland College of Teachers v WXY[2019] QCAT 42

Queensland College of Teachers v WXY[2019] QCAT 42

QUEENSLAND CIVIL AND ADMINISTRATIVE TRIBUNAL

CITATION:

Queensland College of Teachers v WXY [2019] QCAT 42

PARTIES:

QUEENSLAND COLLEGE OF TEACHERS

(applicant)

v

WXY

(respondent)

APPLICATION NO/S:

OCR155-18

MATTER TYPE:

Occupational regulation matters

DELIVERED ON:

26 February 2019

HEARING DATE:

On the papers

HEARD AT:

Brisbane

DECISION OF:

Senior Member Aughterson

Member Grigg

Member Olding

ORDERS:

  1. The respondent is prohibited from applying for registration or permission to teach for a period of four years from 5 July 2017.
  2. A notation is to be entered in the register of teachers that, should the respondent apply for registration or permission to teach after the expiry of the prohibition period, the application must include an independent psychological report satisfactory to the Queensland College of Teacher (QCT) addressing the following:
  1. (a)
    An assessment of the respondent’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 student, colleague, parental and community trust inherently invested in a teacher;
    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;
    9. The importance of full adherence to the QCT’s Code of Ethics;
    10. An indication from the psychologist about whether the psychologist is satisfied that the respondent has adequately understood and addressed the above points;
    11. The status of the respondent’s current mental health including details of any therapy undertaken since the date of the disciplinary decision;
    12. Confirmation that the psychologist was provided with copies of (a) the Tribunal’s disciplinary decision; and (b) the Agreed Statement of Facts signed on 21 October 2018 and the material referred to in Schedule 1 to that Statement.
  1. The publication of any information that could identify the student, the respondent or the school in any way is prohibited.
  2. Despite Order 3, the QCT may provide a copy of this decision and the Tribunal’s reasons to:
  1. (a)
    Any future employers who employ the respondent in a teaching role or in child-related employment;
  1. (b)
    The respondent’s current and future health practitioners;
  2. (c)
    Other teacher regulatory authorities;
  3. (d)
    The Chief Executive of Employment Screening.

CATCHWORDS:

EDUCATION – TRAINING AND REGISTRATION OF TEACHERS – where teacher engaged in a sexual relationship with a vulnerable former student within 3-4 months of year 12 graduation – where former student approaching 19 years of age when sexual relationship began - whether teacher’s conduct satisfies the standard of behaviour generally expected of a teacher

ADMINISTRATIVE LAW – ADMINISTRATIVE TRIBUNALS – QUEENSLAND CIVIL AND ADMINISTRATIVE TRIBUNAL – whether non-publication order should be made – where order necessary in the interests of justice for the protection of a vulnerable young person and potentially the mental health of the former teacher – where exceptions required for the protection of future students

Education (Queensland College of Teachers) Act 2005 (Qld), ss 92(1)(h), 158(2), 161

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

Queensland College of Teachers v ABC [2012] QCAT 56 Queensland College of Teachers v FDA [2017] QCAT 224

REPRESENTATION:

 

Applicant:

C Lloyd, Principal Legal Officer, Queensland College of Teachers

Respondent:

Holding Redlich

APPEARANCES:

 

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

REASONS FOR DECISION

  1. [2]
    The Queensland College of Teachers (QCT) suspended the respondent’s registration as a teacher on 5 July 2017.
  2. [3]
    QCT and the respondent agree that:
    1. (a)
      a ground for disciplinary action is established;
    2. (b)
      the appropriate sanction is that the respondent be prohibited from applying for registration as a teacher or for permission to teach for a period of four years from the date of the suspension;
    3. (c)
      a notation be made in the register of teachers in the terms set out in the Tribunal’s Order 2;
    4. (d)
      a non-publication order should be made, subject to the terms of the Tribunal’s Order 4.
  3. [4]
    We are satisfied that a ground for disciplinary action is established and that the proposed orders are appropriate. Our reasons follow.

Legal framework

  1. [5]
    Under section 92(1)(h) of the Education (Queensland College of Teachers) Act 2005 (Qld), the following is a ground for disciplinary action:
  1. (h)
     the 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. [6]
    Upon referral of a matter to the Tribunal by the QCT, the Tribunal, if it decides that that a ground for disciplinary behaviour is established, may make orders it considers appropriate: s 161.  In deciding whether there is a ground for disciplinary action, the Tribunal must have regard to any relevant previous decision of which it is aware: s 158(2).
  2. [7]
    The Tribunal may make an order preventing the identification of any person where it considers the order is necessary to avoid endangering the mental health of a person or in the interests of justice.[1]

Facts

  1. [8]
    The QCT and the respondent filed an Agreed Statement of Facts.
  2. [9]
    The agreed facts include:
    1. (a)
      The respondent was first registered as a teacher in 2006.
    2. (b)
      From 2012 until his registration was suspended by the QCT on 5 July 2017,[2] the respondent was employed in the Special Education Program (SEP) at a high school.
    3. (c)
      In 2012, the respondent was the SEP Program Manager for a female student who was enrolled in the SEP due to a speech language impairment processing disorder requiring one-on-one and small group intervention and adjustments to support her needs.
    4. (d)
      During that year, the student developed a romantic crush on the respondent. The respondent advised the school’s head of special education services that the student had obtained his mobile telephone number from her parents’ phone (the respondent having liaised with the parents with respect to her schooling) and was texting him, which he was uncomfortable about.
    5. (e)
      Consequently, the student was instructed to refrain from contacting the respondent and was allocated a new SEP Program Manager from the start of the 2013 school year.
    6. (f)
      The student graduated from year 12 in November 2014. She was 18 years of age at the time, turning 19 approximately 4-5 months after graduating.
    7. (g)
      In January 2015, the student contacted the respondent on social media and they subsequently commenced a sexual relationship which continued intermittently for over two years. At the time, the respondent was aged in his late Thirties.

Consideration

  1. [10]
    Although the then former student was approaching 19 years of age when the sexual relationship began in early 2015, she was a vulnerable young person and the respondent agrees that there was a residual power imbalance.
  2. [11]
    We are satisfied, as the QCT and the respondent have agreed, that commencing a sexual relationship with a vulnerable former student within a short period after the end of her schooling is behaviour that does not satisfy the standard of behaviour generally expected of a teacher. This is consistent with other decisions, drawn to our attention by the QCT, in which teachers commenced sexual relationships with former students.[3] A ground for disciplinary action is therefore established.
  3. [12]
    We are also satisfied that the proposed orders are appropriate in the circumstances.  They are within the range of orders made in other broadly comparable decisions drawn to our attention by the QCT. For the protection of vulnerable young people, the orders provide deterrence against teachers generally, and the respondent in particular, entering into sexual relationships with vulnerable former students.
  4. [13]
    We are also satisfied that a non-publication order is appropriate in the interests of the well-being of the former student and perhaps also the respondent’s mental health, which appears to be fragile. It is in the interests of justice that the former student be protected from the potentially adverse effect of publication of details of the relationship and having regard to her vulnerability when the relationship began.  The exceptions permitting QCT to communicate our decision and reasons to future employers and regulatory officials are necessary for the protection of students in the future.

Footnotes

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

[2]The respondent’s registration was cancelled on 8 May 2018 following his failure to pay the annual registration fee.

[3]See, for example, Queensland College of Teachers v ABC [2012] QCAT 56 and Queensland College of Teachers v FDA [2017] QCAT 224.

Close

Editorial Notes

  • Published Case Name:

    Queensland College of Teachers v WXY

  • Shortened Case Name:

    Queensland College of Teachers v WXY

  • MNC:

    [2019] QCAT 42

  • Court:

    QCAT

  • Judge(s):

    Senior Member Aughterson, Member Grigg, Member Olding

  • Date:

    26 Feb 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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