A Horowhenua primary school teacher has been stripped of her teaching registration after grabbing the face and twisting the nose of a student with Down syndrome, and causing scratches to the child's face and neck.

Yvonne Horohau Te Peeti was struck off in a decision released this week by the New Zealand Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal for the incident, which is not the first time she has been investigated for using force against students in her care.

Two other incidents in 2003 and 2008 were investigated by her school's board of trustees, where she allegedly punched a pupil and claimed it was a push, and also hit another student on top of the head and kicked him on the backside.

"It should almost go without saying that [the child] is an inherently vulnerable child and there was no basis whatsoever for Ms Te Peeti to use force in response to the trivial transgression she described.

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The most recent incident occurred in November 2016, when Te Peeti became frustrated with the student who had not followed instructions to clean up the classroom.

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She reacted by grabbing and pulling the child by the face, twisting the child's nose as well as causing scratches to the neck.

Te Peeti did not report the incident, but instead another child who witnessed it told the victim's mother, the tribunal report said.

The child cried and remained upset for some time after the incident and the face and neck injuries were visible for at least four hours after the incident.

When confronted by the mother and school principal, Te Peeti acknowledged her conduct.
Later that day she wrote a statement saying she knew what she had done was wrong and that she was apologetic, however the tribunal said there was no evidence she had apologised to the child concerned.

The child's mother made a police complaint. However, after investigating, the police decided not to take the matter further, although noted Te Peeti's behaviour was unacceptable.

The teachers disciplinary tribunal's decision stated the physical force used was a clear cut case of serious misconduct that was "absolutely prohibited".

In ordering Te Peeti's registration to be cancelled the report said the tribunal was concerned the assault was not an isolated incident, and that Te Peeti had "demonstrated no insight" into the seriousness of her actions.

In fact, she claimed to consider herself "unfairly targeted".

In a written statement to the tribunal, which it called "vitriolic in tone", Te Peeti said she was "willing to step up to the crime that I committed (as you see it from your point of view)", but the possibility that she will lose the right to teach constitutes the council "[spitting] in her face again".

In the statement Te Peeti focused on the possibility of losing her ability to teach te reo Maori to adults because of the decision.

"Is there to be no mana left for me, or are you all trying to strip me of the lot," she wrote.
However, the tribunal stated the incident was an assault, with an element of violence, triggered by Te Peeti's loss of composure when faced with supposedly challenging behaviour on the part of the child.

"It should almost go without saying that [the child] is an inherently vulnerable child and there was no basis whatsoever for Ms Te Peeti to use force in response to the trivial transgression she described," the report said.

"Also, it is an aggravating factor that the respondent targeted [the child]'s head. When these features are considered together, we are left in no doubt that the threshold that must be met for an act to amount to physical abuse is reached in the respondent's case."

As well as having her registration cancelled, Te Peeti was ordered to pay costs of $1428.76.