The issue was building over the past couple of weeks.
Teachers who behaved unprofessionally and put young people at risk through their actions were being accorded high levels of protection through name suppression. The same is said of the occasional doctor and lawyer but the issue here seemed to be that name suppression was being continued after the matter had been resolved by the Teachers Council even if the complaint was found to have substance.
The Teachers Council, this became the target. I wondered whether it was because it was a Teachers Council rather than a Teaching Council that invited such constructions being placed on the issue. After all the Law Society is not in name a “Lawyers Society” and nor is the Medical Council a “Doctors Council”. And any entity that is made up in part of representatives of organisations whose existence is based on a mission of representing teachers will always be struggling to be seen dispensing justice even handedly.
But into the midst of these discussions comes Minister Bennett’s “security checks” on all public servants which includes teachers every three years. To be conducted by the police they will lead to instant dismissal for any public servant whose record is not clean. What does this mean? Will that lead to a situation that means that a lower standard of evidence than that required by the courts will be enough to mete out serious punishment? And what will constitute “failing” the security check.
All the wicked people who have already disgraced the profession through reprehensible behaviour and been found to have done so by the courts have presumably passed the checks that have already been made. The imprimatur of registration has been no guarantee of safety for all students. Will Minister Bennett’s three yearly checks be of a higher standard than those applied in the past?
The three yearly timeframe for the checks introduces a new element but what would change in a three year period that would not be before the courts or known to the police. Surely the line needs to be drawn and efficient processes put in place to see that these ratbags are not in schools and anywhere near children for a minute longer once their proclivities and actions are known.
That raises the issue of reporting. It seems to be something of a theme in many cases that “suspicions” were held and even raised, the issue was known and had led to a warning being given. In the recent sickening case in Kaitaia all of these factors had been present and add to them the fact that the police had had their attention drawn to it but could not act “because they did not have the “evidence”. More young people it seems needed to be sacrificed to get a case going.
The ones most likely to be able to stop such activity would be those working with the perpetrator. In short, teachers are really the first line of defence against such activity. If we accept people into the profession as fellow professionals then we should expect them to behave professionally. That should mean that mischievous, vexatious and frivolous complaints would not surface. It should also mean that the profession is confident about raising issues such as these with the leadership secure in the knowledge that they would be taken seriously and acted upon seriously and expeditiously. Professionals must feel safe in exposing unprofessional behaviour if the very professionalism that drives them is to mean anything.
So the answer is probably not in Minister Bennett’s triennial trawl through the ranks but in our own behaviour in ensuring that we are prepared to stand up to stop activity that we know to be wrong or we think might be putting young people at risk. School leadership and different community agencies have the skills to do something about it.
Education has to work for the good press that it gets. The events of the past week or so have reflected poorly on us all. Our personal offence should be such that we will act and have a system where the safety of our young is assured.