Teacher of special needs unit not stood down


The principal of Ashburton College has defended his decision not to stand down a teacher under investigation following long-term bullying allegations.

Ross Preece confirmed a teacher within the college’s Te Whare Manaaki special needs’ unit had not been stood down, despite it being part of an investigation.

The teacher, who was back at school for the start of the new term on Monday, has been the subject of multiple claims of ongoing verbal and physical abuse of students and staff.

Those claims and concerns, which dated back until at least 2018, were revealed to the Guardian by parents and former staff members.

When asked if the teacher at the centre of the allegations had been stood down, Preece said: “why would she be stood down?”

“At the moment it’s allegations,” he said.

Ross Preece

“The report will be what we’re working from.”

The school had commissioned an investigative report because Preece had said there had been concerns raised about the learning unit.

That preliminary report had now been received and was being shared with some of the wider school community for review and input, Preece said.

That process was expected to take a week and Preece added that because it was an employment matter he would not be commenting further until the report had been finalised.

Ashburton mother Melanie Deuart, who had taken her autistic son out of the school following complaints to school leaders about the teacher, said she was keen to see the report after being interviewed during the independent inquiry, which started in June.

During the recent school holidays, additional security cameras had been installed in the special needs’ class, although Preece said that was part of a wider school upgrade.

He said there was close to 20 cameras situated throughout school premises.

The Ministry of Education said decisions about the use and installation of CCTV in schools was the responsibility of the school board and principal.

Although the ministry had funded security cameras at other schools, it confirmed it had not paid for those at Ashburton College.

A ministry spokeswoman also said schools did not require permission from parents to install CCTV.

But the ministry added that, according to guidance from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, there should be notices about the presence of cameras, and policies in place about storage and access to the information collected.

– By Adam Burns