Teacher misconduct claims rise sharply

Teacher misconduct claims rise sharply

Serious misconduct allegations against school staff spiked 40% in 2014, a new report from the WA education department has revealed.

The reports include accusations of inappropriate online or sexualised contact with students, physical assault, fraud and theft.

Alarmed by the statistics, the State School Teachers Union WA (SSTUWA) has reminded its members to avoid accepting social media approaches from their students in order to limit the risk of misconduct.

SSTUWA president, Pat Byrne, said the spike in cases of misconduct could be driven by increased use of social media by teachers and students and urged members to familiarise themselves with their school’s internet policies.

“We need to remind ourselves this is not a friendship, this is a professional relationship,” Byrne told The West Australian.

Any misconduct allegations made against state school staff are automatically referred to the Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) for external oversight.

However, lower level allegations are resolved at school or district level, with the more serious accusations being sent to head office.

The department’s latest annual report reveals that these centrally managed allegations increased sharply from 268 and 276 in the previous two years to 385 in 2014-15.

Shadow education minister, Sue Ellery, said the “dramatic increase” in misconduct allegations should be addressed through providing more information to schools about how to identify and prevent misconduct.

“If it is related to social media, then we need to get more material to schools about what is appropriate and what is not,” Ellery said.