Long-standing Rotorua teacher Val Cooney has been censured by the Education Council's Disciplinary Tribunal for serious misconduct after admitting slapping a student and pushing another.

The tribunal's decision has been released today which outlines two incidents that happened at John Paul College in October and December 2017.

But despite being 79, Cooney has told the Rotorua Daily Post she will continue to teach and wants to end her career on a high given she has spent nearly 60 years in the profession.

She said she regretted her actions, apologised for them and wasn't known as a violent teacher.


The decision said Cooney was often used at John Paul College to help other teachers when they were having difficulty with managing students' difficult behaviour.

On October 25, 2017, three students were sent to her class because of their disruptive behaviour. When she was dealing with them, one of the students started to laugh. Cooney slapped the student across his cheek with her right hand and the student started to cry.

Cooney said she immediately regretted her actions and apologised to the student in the presence of another staff member.

She engaged in a restorative justice meeting with the student and his family. Cooney thought the matter was resolved and wouldn't be taken further, the decision said, but the school initiated an employment disciplinary process.

On December 4 2017, Cooney was teaching folk dancing and took exception to a student's unco-operative behaviour and unwillingness to find a female dance partner.

She put her hand on the student's shoulder and pushed him towards the girls in the class. The student pulled away and told Cooney to "get stuffed".

The student was told to report to the dean but he later made a complaint against Cooney.

Cooney acknowledged the seriousness of both incidents and expressed remorse for her actions.


She said she was under stress at the time of both incidents by having the responsibility of disciplining students referred to her by other teachers and on a personal level by dealing with her husband's illness.

The decision said Cooney became frustrated and overreacted to disruptive behaviour and perceived disrespect.

The aggravating factors were the hit to the head in relation to the October incident, emotional harm suffered by each student, the degree of force relating to the October incident and the repeated conduct that they happened within a couple of months of each other.

Mitigating factors included remorse expressed, the longstanding service of Cooney having taught for more than 55 years with an unblemished record, Cooney's co-operation and the difficult personal circumstances Cooney was going through at the time.

Cooney's lawyer submitted to the tribunal that members of the public, when fully aware of the context of the offending, "might conclude that [Cooney's] reaction was understandable, though not excusable, and not a negative reflection on the profession".

The decision said while it acknowledged Cooney was experiencing stress and pressure, there were "no circumstances in which striking a student across the face can be considered an appropriate disciplinary measure".


It said the trust families placed in teachers every day was not a responsibility that should be taken lightly.

The decision said Cooney still had something to contribute to the profession and could continue to add value to the lives of the students she taught.

The decision said the actions amounted to serious misconduct and Cooney pleaded guilty.

Her penalty is she is censured, a finding of serious misconduct is recorded and Cooney was told to undergo professional development in regards to classroom discipline and stress management. A stand-down period was not required.

She was ordered to pay 40 per cent of the tribunal's costs, which was $458.

See tomorrow's Rotorua Daily Post for an exclusive interview with Val Cooney about her teaching career.