A former principal has been suspended for writing a fake letter about alleged porn on his mobile phone.
The Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal said yesterday that it had suspended Tim Jenkinson from teaching for six months after students at a small rural college said they found porn on his mobile phone in February 2017.
The tribunal's complaints assessment committee found that there was "insufficient evidence upon which to conclude that pornographic material was held on the phone when it was provided to students to use".
But the tribunal found that Jenkinson tried to deceive the school by making up a letter alleged to be from Vodafone stating that his phone was infected by a virus.
It said students at the college told the principal that they "discovered pornographic material on the respondent's personal mobile phone when using it as a calculator during class".
When the principal challenged him about it, Jenkinson said his phone had a virus.
He gave the principal a letter with a Vodafone letterhead and signed by "Lester (Skip) Parker, Technician, Vodafone," stating that the phone was infected with a virus.
But when the principal checked with Vodafone, the company said it had no employee by the name of Lester Parker and stated: "Our internal assessment indicates there is sufficient information available at this stage to conclude that the document [provided by Jenkinson] is false and has been created to mislead or deceive."
Jenkinson then admitted that he made up the letter, telling the principal that he was "frightened and panicked".
"It was a stupid and irrational thing to do and for that I am truly very sorry and ashamed," he told the principal by email.
The tribunal found that Jenkinson's attempt to mislead the school was "behaviour that strikes at the heart of the expectation for honesty and integrity that the profession and the public have of practitioners".
However it did not cancel his teacher registration completely because of three mitigating features that "have enabled Mr Jenkinson to avoid cancellation by a narrow margin".
"These features are:
"(a) The respondent's belated acceptance of responsibility that he had created the letter, combined with his apology to the school;
"(b) The fact that he has been attending counselling; and
"(c) His cooperation with the Complaints Assessment Committee's investigation."
The tribunal noted that, in a similar case in 2010, it suspended a teacher's practising certificate for a year after the teacher forged a letter and continued to deny that he had done so.
"For that reason we agree that a shorter term of suspension is required in the present case," it said. "We therefore suspend the respondent's practising certificate for six months."
Jenkinson sought name suppression, arguing that publication of the decision would "cause undue stress and harm [to his family]".
The tribunal refused to suppress his name, stating: "It is almost inevitable that a degree of hardship will be caused to the innocent family members of a teacher found guilty of serious misconduct."
However it has deleted all references to the name of the college where Jenkinson was deputy principal from January 2016 until he resigned in June 2017.
The decision says Jenkinson has now "obtained employment outside of the education sector".