Teacher sacked for striking student

Photo / File photo
Photo / File photo

An Auckland teacher was sacked for hitting a 9-year-old student on the back of the head and pulling him by the ear - and then trying to persuade the child and his mother to drop the complaint.

Meena Sudhakar was dismissed from Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate in Otara in March last year after the board of trustee's investigation found her actions amounted to serious misconduct.

Ms Sudhakar, a teacher for more than 30 years who had worked at the school since 1999, raised a grievance before the Employment Relations Authority (ERA), seeking $15,000 in lost wages and compensation.

But the authority found Ms Sudhakar was justifiably dismissed for serious misconduct, and rejected her claim.

The ERA heard the boy she allegedly hit had complained to his mother about the incident in mid-May 2012.

He told his mother Ms Sudhakar hit him on the back of the head, which had hurt, and pulled his ear.

The boy's mother complained to the school's principal, John Shearer, who then spoke to Ms Sudhakar.

Mr Shearer told her not to say anything about the incident to her class - but Ms Sudhakar allegedly asked students to tell Mr Shearer she had only "tapped" the boy.

She also allegedly spoke to the boy about the incident, with one witness saying she tried to cajole him a classroom, saying: "Do you really want me to leave this school?"

But the boy held firm, and did not change his story throughout the school's investigation.

The ERA also heard Ms Sudhakar called the boy's home and allegedly apologised for her actions. She asked the boy's mother not to write a formal statement about the incident, saying it was her last year of teaching and any complaint could affect her retirement.

The boy's house also received two odd calls - one from a man asking to talk to the boy's siblings, who hung up when his requests were refused.

The other call was from a school board member, who asked the boy's mother whether she wanted to get rid of Ms Sudhakar. The mother replied she did not, but she did want Ms Sudhakar to be held accountable for her actions.

Throughout the investigation, Ms Sudhakar denied hitting the boy and pulling his ear.

She also denied trying to get children to change their stories, and while she admitted calling his mother, she denied apologising or trying to persuade her against a written complaint.

The investigation found Ms Sudhakar had hit the boy and pulled his ear, and had interfered with the investigation. She was dismissed for serious misconduct in March last year.

Ms Sudhakar argued before the ERA that her dismissal was unjustified because the school did not have sufficient grounds to conclude she had committed serious misconduct.

She also claimed the allegations against her were not properly investigated, the process was flawed, and the school did not genuinely consider her position.

But the ERA found her dismissal was justified, and rejected her claim for compensation. Costs were reserved.

- APNZ

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