College report findings disappoint parent


An investigation has cleared an Ashburton College teacher of bullying allegations, but it has shocked a parent who withdrew her child from the school.

Melanie Deuart, who had complained to school leaders twice, pulled her autistic son out of the college at the start of the term after she understood the extent of multiple allegations surrounding a special needs’ unit teacher.

The teacher, who the Guardian decided not to name even after being cleared of any wrongdoing, had been the subject of multiple claims of bullying towards students and staff in the Te Whare Manaaki student learning support unit, stretching back until at least 2019.

“I just think it (investigation report findings) is a big joke,” said Deuart, who was interviewed as part of the investigation but had not seen the report and was not informed of its findings.

Ashburton College principal Ross Preece said the report could not be disclosed due to privacy.

He also would not respond to further questions around both the investigation and Deuart’s concerns.

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

Preece, in a prepared written statement, said the report proved that none of the allegations had been upheld.

“In term two of 2021, Ashburton College received a complaint regarding allegations of staff bullying within Te Whare Manaaki,’’ Preece’s statement said.

“The college instigated a comprehensive independent investigation into the complaint, which has now been completed.

“Due to privacy reasons, the investigation report cannot be disclosed. However, the investigation has highlighted that whilst there have been some working relationship issues identified between the staff in Te Whare Manaaki, none of the allegations of bullying were upheld.

“The college is committed to continuing to provide its students, staff and whanau a safe, supportive learning and working environment.”

Deuart first became concerned during a visiting day in November 2020 where she allegedly saw the teacher grab her son’s hand and squeeze it “violently” until he answered her.

The mother’s second complaint came after indications from her son that the teacher may have encouraged him to “keep secrets”.

A former teacher aide Porsha Coley also said she had witnessed what she considered physical and emotional abuse toward pupils from a teacher in the school’s Te Whare Manaaki unit.

She left earlier in the year because she was fed up with the alleged inaction from school leaders around the unit.

Emails obtained by the Guardian dating back to 2019 also detailed other concerns from staff members.

– By Adam Burns