Edward Rooney

Edward Rooney is the Regional News Editor at NZME. News Service.

Govt investigates rule suppressing teacher complaints

Herald on Sunday argues suppression should only be granted in cases where it is justified by important considerations like protecting the identity of a child victim. Photo / Thinkstock
Herald on Sunday argues suppression should only be granted in cases where it is justified by important considerations like protecting the identity of a child victim. Photo / Thinkstock

A Parliamentary select committee is asking the New Zealand Teachers Council to explain why it has thrown a blanket suppression order over all complaints against teachers.

The Herald on Sunday reported last month on the absolute blackout over the proceedings before the Teachers Council Disciplinary Tribunal, and formally complained to the Teachers Council board.

Disturbed by what he read in our story, barrister Graeme Edgeler also laid a complaint with Parliament's Regulations Review Committee.

Committee chairman Charles Chauvel said the committee considered the Edgeler complaint this week and ruled it had substance.

In the latest case, teacher Andrew Loader admitted paying $240 to twice watch two teenagers have sex, one just 16 years old. He fought in court to keep his name suppressed, but failed.

Community Magistrate Robyn Paterson ruled the court not only had to take into consideration extreme hardship but the interests of the public, the freedom of the press, and the expectation of open justice.

The Teachers Council, however, is still suppressing his name - and his actions would never have been revealed if not for the court case.

The Herald on Sunday argues suppression should only be granted in cases where it is justified by important considerations like protecting the identity of a child vicim. The newspaper has written to the committee, asking to be heard.

Editor Bryce Johns wrote: "This prohibition is one of the heaviest shrouds of secrecy over any statutory disciplinary body in New Zealand.

"The protection of our children while under the care and supervision of schools strikes to the heart of every parent. There can be few, if any, matters of greater public concern."

Chauvel said the committee would refer the complaint to the Teachers Council for a formal response. "Once we have received that, we can have a hearing and invite the Teachers Council."

The committee will then decide and report to Parliament. If the complaint is upheld, the New Zealand Teachers Council (Conduct) Rules 2004 can be annulled by Parliament.

Chauvel would give no indication of comments by committee members in reaction to the complaint. "We're very careful to act fairly to all sides," he said.

"We have simply decided there's some basis for the complaint and we're concerned enough that we want to hear from the Teachers Council on it."

Teachers Council director Peter Lind said the council would co-operate fully. "We are very keen to ensure the information provided to the public is as full as possible, bearing in mind the innocent parties and the children, whose interests must be protected."

Lind said the council had seen the formal complaint from the Herald on Sunday and the organisation's board had agreed this week to consider it.

- Herald on Sunday

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