Teacher hit boy over 'paedophile moustache' insult

A teacher has been censured for punching a boy who said he had "a moustache like a paedophile".

The male teacher punched the 13-year-old student on his cheek after the boy taunted him about his moustache at a social touch rugby game in February 2018.

The Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal issued an original decision on the case last April but withdrew its decision after receiving additional information about name suppression.

Its final decision has suppressed the names of the teacher, the student and their college because the college is in "a small community" and publication of the teacher's name "might lead to identification of the student".

The teacher was charged with assault but was granted police diversion in March 2018.

An agreed statement of facts says the incident occurred when the teacher was playing for the college social touch rugby team at the local domain at about 7.30pm on February 7, 2018.

"The student (and victim in this case) was sitting with a friend watching the game," the statement says.

"As the respondent [teacher] came off the field, the student made a comment about the respondent having a moustache like a paedophile would.

"The respondent approached the student and asked if he wanted a smack in the face.

"The student pointed to his cheek and said, 'Yes right here.' The respondent then punched the student once with a closed fist on his right cheek.

"After punching the student, the respondent initially walked away before walking back and saying, 'You're not laughing now.' The student stated he thought the respondent was joking.

"The student experienced some redness and soreness to his right cheek.

Prior to the incident, the respondent had been 'play fighting' with the student. The respondent kicked the student in the bottom during this 'play fight'."

The teacher admitted what he had done and said the boy had upset him.

"In explanation, the respondent said he was frustrated that the student had continued to give him cheek about his moustache and it was upsetting to him as a male teacher to be called a paedophile," the tribunal said.

"The student had previously that day made a comment about the respondent's moustache.

"The respondent has admitted to the conduct that occurred, namely punching a student in the cheek, and also admits to kicking the student lightly in the bottom during the 'play fight'.

The teacher said he was taking medication at the time for depression and anxiety.

"He suggests that his response of punching the student was a 'paradoxical reaction' to being prescribed Lorazepam on January 24, 2018, which was medication he is prescribed for stress," the tribunal said.

"He ceased using lorazepam once he realised its possible effects on him."

The tribunal's decision says the teacher is still employed at the college but has "undertaken not to teach until the current proceedings are resolved".

He wrote a letter of apology to the student but was not able to present the letter because the student "did not take part in the restorative process".

A psychologist told the tribunal that she had 10 counselling sessions with the teacher between March and November 2018 "following his self-referral for assistance with his mood and anxiety following the assault in February 2018".

"At that time, he appeared to have recovered well from his earlier episode of depression, but continued to experience some symptoms of depression and anxiety when dealing with the ongoing Education Council process," the tribunal said.

The tribunal found that the assault amounted to "serious misconduct" but decided that "a rehabilitative approach" was appropriate.

"We suggest that the respondent might benefit from further counselling to manage his stress but we do not direct any further counselling or an anger management course," it said.

"We do think that some mentorship would help the respondent, as suggested in the area of student management, and including exploration of the respondent's emotional triggers and reactions to provocative behaviour."

The teacher was censured and was ordered to be mentored by an approved colleague for a year, to disclose the tribunal's decision to any future employer in the next two years, and to pay $3397.52 in costs.

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