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‘Is this a story you made up?’: Teacher denies pushing child off hoverboard

Author
Open Justice,
Publish Date
Thu, 8 Jun 2023, 11:10AM
A Bay of Plenty teacher is facing a disciplinary charge after allegedly pushing a student off an electric hoverboard. Stock photo / 123RF
A Bay of Plenty teacher is facing a disciplinary charge after allegedly pushing a student off an electric hoverboard. Stock photo / 123RF

‘Is this a story you made up?’: Teacher denies pushing child off hoverboard

Author
Open Justice,
Publish Date
Thu, 8 Jun 2023, 11:10AM

A teacher accused of pushing a boy off a hoverboard during a lunch break has denied any wrongdoing, with his lawyer going so far as to suggest the story was made up by students who didn’t like him.

The Western Bay of Plenty teacher, whose name and that of the school he worked at are suppressed, is facing a serious misconduct charge before the Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal at a hearing in Tauranga this week.

It’s alleged the teacher pushed or kicked a Year 6 student off an electric hoverboard with his leg on an unknown date between September and November 2020. A hoverboard resembles a skateboard but is motorised and requires the rider to balance it.

While the student at the centre of the incident did not give evidence, the tribunal heard from two student witnesses who were 11 at the time their classmate was allegedly pushed. Both students, who are now 13 years old, said the teacher approached them during the lunch break, moments after the bell had rung signalling the return to class.

They said the teacher approached the student on the hoverboard and kicked it, causing him to lose balance and fall on to a path. He was uninjured.

One of the witnesses gave evidence that as he returned to class, the student on the hoverboard said he was going to the school office to report the incident.

Under cross-examination by the teacher’s lawyer Janette Brown, one of the students admitted his group had a bumpy relationship with the teacher, saying he felt like he “hated” them and treated them differently from others.

“He picked on us more than others,” the student said.

“Is this a story you made up because you didn’t like [the teacher]?” Brown asked. The student said no.

The teacher, whose identity is suppressed, taught at a Western Bay of Plenty school. Photo / Mead Norton

The teacher, whose identity is suppressed, taught at a Western Bay of Plenty school. Photo / Mead Norton

Taking the stand, the school’s principal said he was made aware of the incident after a complaint from the child’s mother in late November.

The deputy principal then met with the students to ascertain their side of the story.

The school board then placed the teacher on leave and commissioned an independent investigation into the incident. The principal later made a mandatory report to the Teaching Council.

The outcome of the investigation commissioned by the board was not detailed during the hearing.

‘I didn’t do it’ - teacher

Giving evidence, the teacher denied he pushed or kicked the student or made him fall off the hoverboard.

Given the date of the alleged incident is unknown, the teacher recounted what his typical movements were at the end of a lunch break. He had no recollection of engaging with the specific three students while they were using a hoverboard at the incident location at any time over the specified period.

The teacher also denied he had ever treated one of the student witnesses differently. Hearing the student’s evidence was the first he’d heard of the supposed issues.

He spoke of how much he enjoyed his time at the school, which saw him building a path for students, cleaning up the grounds when the school found itself without a caretaker, and being asked to represent the school on an overseas trip.

Lawyer for the complaints assessment committee, Milan Djurich, asked the teacher about allegations from the student witnesses that he had made degrading jokes or banter about them in class.

The teacher denied this and said concerns about any comments were never raised with him.

His new employer, the principal of another school, gave evidence that he was a diligent staff member regularly seeking guidance on how to improve as a teacher. He disclosed the tribunal process before he was employed.

The hearing continues today, at which point interim suppression for the teacher and school will be reviewed. The identities of all students are permanently suppressed.

- Ethan Griffiths, Open Justice

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