20-year high in criminal acts by teachers

Whetu Cormick
Whetu Cormick
Violence, careless driving causing death or injury, excess blood-alcohol while driving, and driving while impaired have left 11 teachers with criminal convictions in Otago during 2012 - the highest number for more than 20 years.

The previous high was in 2010 when eight teachers received convictions on pornography, dishonesty or alcohol and drug charges.

Since 1992, 46 Otago teachers received convictions for crimes covering dangerous driving causing death or injury, drugs, alcohol, violence, pornography and sexual offending.

Figures released by the New Zealand Teachers' Council under the Official Information Act revealed the 2012 total alone made up almost a quarter of the convictions recorded against teachers in the past 20 years.

New Zealand Teachers' Council director Peter Lind said the information provided related to teachers in Otago at the time the offences leading to the convictions were committed.''

Please note, these teachers may no longer be teaching in the region, or be teaching at all.''

As a result of convictions, five teachers had been struck off the teaching register since 1992; three in the 1990s for convictions of a sexual nature, one in 2005 for drug and alcohol convictions and one in 2010 for a pornography offence, Dr Lind said.

While no teachers were struck off the teaching register for convictions in Otago in 2012, Dr Lind said 15 teachers were struck off for convictions in other parts of New Zealand.

Three were for possession of objectionable material, one for indecent acts on a child; one for assaulting a child; one for an inappropriate relationship with a pupil and assault; one for indecent assault; three for drugs; one for an inappropriate relationship with a pupil; three for serious misconduct; and one for benefit fraud.

Teachers are required, under the Education Act 1989, to inform the New Zealand Teachers' Council within seven days when they receive a conviction.

The registrar of each court in New Zealand also contacts the Teachers' Council when a person they believe to be a teacher is convicted of an offence punishable by imprisonment of three months or more.

Otago Primary Principals' Association president Whetu Cormick said the Teachers' Council and the criminal justice system appeared to be working well in tandem to ensure members of the teaching profession convicted of serious offences were identified and dealt with accordingly.

Mr Cormick said all educators shared the view teachers should be fit and proper to teach children.

''The [teachers' Disciplinary] Tribunal has a very robust system for dealing with teachers who have been convicted. They don't take it lightly.''

Dr Lind said the statistics needed to be kept in perspective given the country's more than 100,000 registered teachers. The number of teachers convicted of a criminal offence was a ''very small proportion of the profession'', he said, ''in fact, it is less than 0.01%''.

''This should give the New Zealand public assurance that the vast majority of teachers are professional and law abiding,'' he said.


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