Drunk principal fell off chair in meeting, had affair with teacher aide

A female manager took screenshots of a worker's Tinder profile and asked which way he would swipe...
The principal said it was an "awkward discovery" when she found Teaching Aid A's Tinder profile. File photo
A former principal has been suspended from teaching for bad behaviour that included an affair with a teacher aide and being so drunk at an online board meeting she slurred her words, kissed the camera and fell off her chair.

She also reduced teachers to tears with the aggressive way she ran her school and implemented changes, telling staff to "like it or lump it".

Several long-serving staff members resigned while others avoided going to the staff room because of the tension in the school.

The principal ended the employment of a teacher aide on a fixed-term contract with no consultation and deducted two days of a caretaker’s leave without notice as she did not believe he had been at work.

She also began an intimate relationship with another teacher aide which, while consensual, showed a "significant lack of judgment and lack of appreciation for professional boundaries", according to the Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal.

The tribunal has suspended the woman from teaching for six months.

It has also ordered her to provide the Teaching Council with evidence of ongoing therapy with a counsellor or psychologist to deal with significant underlying mental health issues.

For the next three years, she will have to provide future employers with a copy of the tribunal’s decision and seek mentoring with a senior teacher about professional boundaries.

She will not be allowed to occupy a management position.

The name of the former principal is subject to a permanent non-publication order.

Partly, this was imposed by the tribunal to prevent hardship to the woman’s children and her partner, also a teacher.

The tribunal also felt publicity could exacerbate the woman’s significant and long-standing mental health issues.

The names of the school and the name of "Teacher Aide A", with whom she had the intimate relationship, have also been redacted, along with the identities of the other staff involved in her case.

School staff reported their concerns about the principal’s conduct towards Teacher Aide A to the school board some years ago.

Dates have been redacted in the tribunal report, but the Zoom meeting which also featured in her misconduct case happened during the Covid lockdown.

Charges were laid in June 2022 after the school board reported her to the Teaching Council and a Complaints Assessment Committee was appointed to investigate.

‘The bomb diggity’

The charges alleged the principal "acted in an inappropriate manner consistent with intoxication" during the Zoom board meeting during lockdown.

In addition to kissing the camera and falling off her chair, the principal giggled during a prayer and referred to documents as "the bomb diggity" - a slang expression of approval – while drinking a red liquid from a stemless wine glass.

She then started a game that involved other attendees making a fist in response to their favourite colour, and which ended with her telling one: "Oh, so you’re Black Power."

Six attendees expressed concern to the school board following the meeting, and the principal apologised as part of a disciplinary process.

The woman later told the tribunal she had drunk "a couple of glasses of wine" but had recently recommenced anti-depressant medication and sleeping tablets, which might have had an effect.

Regarding her relationship with a staff member, the tribunal decision included a partial transcript of a text exchange between the principal and Teacher Aide A, following a joint visit to a hairdresser.

"I want you close to me .... Did you not feel the electricity. I felt it aaaaaages ago," the principal said.

"LOL. Felt things I shouldn’t have," Teaching Aide A replied.

The principal later sent a message to A with a screenshot of A’s Tinder dating app profile photo and the words "awkward discovery" and references to "swiping right".

An agreed summary of facts said the principal and A had an intimate personal relationship, including sex on one occasion, and exchanged a large number of messages and photographs, including flirtatious messages from both participants.

‘OMG, I feel like a stalker’

A was a willing participant at first but later felt that the relationship was inappropriate.

The tribunal said there was no general prohibition on relationships between teaching colleagues, "and we do not suggest that is necessary or reasonable", but in this case there was a "significant imbalance in power".

A asked the principal to stop messaging, and she agreed, but then resumed sending messages – more than 100 in a day.

These messages included: "I’ll do anything to be with you"; "OMG, I feel like a stalker"; "What have I done for you not to talk to me?"; "Why won’t you answer your phone?".

"Tell me if you want me to stop but I don’t want to stop. F*** it, I can’t stop," one message said.

Five teachers saw that Teacher Aide A was extremely upset, and they were read messages the principal had sent.

The tribunal said intimate images of the principal were shared, without her consent.

The teachers reported what they had seen and heard to a school board member, and the board sent a letter to the principal saying they were investigating allegations of serious misconduct. They said the principal was not to contact A.

The principal breached this instruction, going to A’s home and telling the teacher aide to delete messages.

She later denied to the board and the Complaints Assessment Committee that she had been in a sexual relationship with A, until presented with copies of messages A had retained.

Five teachers complained about the principal’s conduct with A to the school board.

The principal at one point referred to her colleagues as "gossiping w***ers". She threatened to fire some of them.

Since leaving the school where she was principal, the woman has worked full-time for more than a year as a teacher at an intermediate school under a principal who knew about the charges she was facing.

No further issues about her conduct have arisen in that time.

 - Ric Stevens, Open Justice reporter