A childcare teacher accused of mishandling a 4-year-old boy says she was just "holding his hand".
The teacher at Best Start's First Steps centre in Onslow Rd, Papakura, faces a charge of serious misconduct arising from two allegations about her treatment of the boy.
The centre's administrator, Tracey Hazell, who was looking into the room from a window in her office, told the Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal on Tuesdaythat she saw the teacher hold the boy's hand up by his wrist and pull him across the room at 1.25pm on June 13 last year.
A caregiver, Kelsi McLennan, said that at about 2.45pm on the same day she saw the teacher "forcibly remove" the boy from the room and "plonk" him on the deck outside.
"She was saying things like, 'Get out!' and 'Stop it!'" McLennan said.
The teacher, who said she had never faced any previous disciplinary proceedings in 17 years as a preschool teacher, was often emotional as she told her side of the story today.
She said she had fallen out with the centre management through previous events including a child's broken leg, a critical Education Review Office report and a request for better ventilation of her classroom and higher-quality food for the children.
"The continuing bullying and my stress, it impacted my whole livelihood, my relationship, my own children," she said.
She cried as she spoke about the boy whom she was alleged to have mishandled, who was described by others on the first day of the hearing as having "challenging behaviours".
"[The boy] was a beautiful, beautiful boy. Her had a big cheesy grin," she said.
"What I noticed with [him], apart from being hungry, was that he was trying so hard to make a friend, and every time he tried hard. He just needed coaching to make a special friend, and when he found a special friend he was fine.
"He was well dressed, he had shoes. When he first began at the centre he bought a lunchbox, he had a school bag.
"But his attendance was so sporadic - with going to mum, going to dad, going to nana - that I felt he needed support in his environment to be coached and loved, with limits and boundaries and consequences, respectful consequences."
The teacher said that on June 13 she was in and out of the room because she also had to check on the other rooms, organise staff breaks and make sure staff ratios were being maintained, so she had only two interactions with the boy that day.
In the first interaction, just before afternoon tea, she said the boy smashed a track that the other children had built with Zoob plastic pieces. She said she just talked to him to calm him down.
In the second interaction, when a big chocolate cake was wheeled in on a trolley for afternoon tea, she acknowledged that she did intervene physically after the boy had eaten three pieces of cake while other children were lining up for their shares.
"[He] kept coming up to the trolley and saying to me he wanted more," she said.
"Then he started rattling the trolley, and because it was on wheels it started moving.
"[Another teacher] was coming in with the rest of the children, and I made a split decision to redirect [the boy] round and out the door on to the deck."
She said she tried to get the boy interested in another activity but he refused.
"Then he started getting a bit rough, and that's when I held his hand and I was talking to him as I was redirecting him out to the deck.
"As I was redirecting [him] I was holding his hand, I was bent down, I was making eye contact with him and I did say to him in a firm, clear voice: 'Don't hurt my children'."
Responding to later questions, she said she was holding the boy's left hand with her right hand.
"My other hand was on his chest, reassuring him. I was patting him on the chest. I'm a touchy-feely person," she said.
Once they were out on the deck, she said, she patted the boy on the back and told him she had to go back to the other children, leaving him outside with another staff member who was cleaning tables.
"As I was walking back inside, he had plonked himself down on the deck," she said.
She said the boy often did this as a kind of protest when he was told to do something.
"It's like a fall down, like a protest, and - I don't like this word, but like a tantrum," she said.
She said she checked with him "no more than two minutes later" and he had stopped crying, but was throwing blocks out of a container on the deck.
Later again, after the other children had all eaten, there was one piece of cake left over and she gave it to the boy because he was hungry.
"I never let [him] starve. I brought bread rolls and things for him from home," she said.
The tribunal is expected to release its decision in the next few months.