A preschool teacher hit a child on the head with her knuckles after he refused to share a toy in what has been described as an “extremely serious and concerning incident”.
The Teacher’s Disciplinary Tribunal found Christchurch teacher Nora Fa’amelea Lepaila guilty of serious misconduct and decided to censure her.
Lepaila admitted that in August 2020, when she was working at Tino e Tasi Preschool, she hit a 3-year-old on the head with her knuckles after he repeatedly refused to share a toy while the children were playing outside.
She held the boy’s hand and walked him inside. Once inside she hit him on the head with her knuckles.
“The hit made a knocking noise that was heard by Teacher A, who did not see the incident but was also in the Lupe room,” the report said.
The child was visibly upset and on the verge of tears afterwards and told another teacher Lepaila hit him.
Lepaila, a registered teacher, decided not to defend the charges and told the Tribunal, although it was a “brief and isolated incident”, she was aware it was misconduct.
She told the Tribunal “in her 10 years of working as an early childhood teacher, she has never behaved in this way or been the subject of disciplinary investigation. She says she is passionate about teaching in early childhood, and feels privileged to help guide the next generation.
“She points to how much she is enjoying her current employment.”
She had already enrolled in an online course to help her learn ways to deal with difficult behaviour.”
The Tribunal found it was done as a form of punishment and pointed to the fact the”force used” was enough for another teacher to hear a knocking sound.
The Tribunal noted it has commented many times that the use of force for corrective purposes would generally amount to serious misconduct.
The described this case as “an extremely serious and concerning incident”.
“It is never acceptable to hit a child, and teachers must find a way to deal with stressors, and/or challenging behaviours, which does not in any way involve force. The respondent is required to find strategies in situations like those which occurred in this case, and never resort to lashing out as a solution,” the ruling read.
They found Lepaila guilty of serious misconduct and determined she be censured, have an annotation attached to her name on the teacher’s register for two years and complete a course in managing child behaviour.
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