A teachers union has been accused of "protecting" teacher Robert Burrett before he went on to molest and rape 12 Christchurch schoolgirls, missing a chance to remove him from the profession in the early 2000s.The story then gets messier, with Burrett being paid to leave, the school not reporting him because of the confidentiality agreement they had to sign to get him to leave when they couldn't fire him, and NZEI washing its hands of things.
Pukenui School in Te Kuiti tried to get rid of Burrett, its deputy principal, in 2001 because he was drunk, dishevelled and disorganised.
But according to board chair at the time Steve Parry, the New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) made the process extremely difficult.
"They were quite evasive and defensive of the guy, and it frustrated us to a high level," Parry said. "Of course a person has rights and has to be protected, but they were really trying to make things confusing and difficult, they weren't really engaging in the problems we had."
Stephanie Mills, the NZEI's director of campaigns, said she could not comment on individual cases. The union acted for members in cases of competency or misconduct "in order that every member receives natural justice and due process".So...does this last part mean that things have been improved such that teachers like this can be dismissed more readily and not make it back into the system?
Mills said it was the employer's role and legal obligation to report teachers where there were claims of incompetency or misconduct.
"We are not in the role of reporting individual teachers, because this is clearly a board's responsibility."
She said the union had actively engaged with the Education Council in the development of registered teachers' criteria and the council's competency processes.
It "strongly supported" the profession taking responsibility for maintaining and enhancing the quality of teachers, she said.
If things have been improved, and if the unions were part of that process improvement, then the story doesn't make enough of that side of things. If they haven't, though....
I wonder whether Tom McCarthy is busy these days....