Perth relief teacher ‘terrorised’ primary school students during a day of cruelty, parents say

Butler Primary School parents have described how a relief teacher “terrorised” their children in a series of cruel acts on December 4 that left the children traumatised about returning to their year 5 classroom.

The relief teacher put a child with special needs in a headlock, barred students from going to the toilet, punished those who wet themselves and refuted the existence of Santa.

One mother, Rachel, told Gary Adshead on Radio 6PR that her 10-year-old son wet himself, along with four other children, after being told “going to the toilet is a privilege and not a right”.

“Then the girls asked and the teacher’s response was that they needed to write a persuasive essay on why you need to go to the toilet,” she said on air.

“It’s not a privilege to go to the toilet! It’s a basic human right for a child.

“As embarrassing as it was they wet their pants … and they were isolated outside the classroom.”

Another mother, Erin, said her daughter was “pretty unflappable” but clearly anxious about what happened that Friday.

She wrote a letter to the school describing the events that took place the moment class started, including an assault of a special needs student and the mocking of an Elf on the Shelf, asking “do you really still believe in this stuff?”

In the letter, the child described how another child who needed to self-regulate by playing with a special fidget toy was put into a headlock and restrained as he cried out to be let go.

Education Department director general Lisa Rodgers agreed and apologised to the students and families affected. She said a disciplinary investigation was under way.

“It’s just awful so … to the parents and those children I’m really sorry that behaviour is really wrong,” she said.

She said the teacher, who had taught for “a number of years”, had been struck off the system used by schools seeking relief teachers while the matter was being investigated.

A WA Police spokeswoman said the matter had been reported and was being investigated, and the school’s investigation is also due to go to the Teacher Registration Board of WA.

Ms Rodgers praised the “exceptionally brave” children who went to one of the teachers at recess to report on the relief teacher and said the principal “acted immediately”.

For those traumatised she offered additional support, including psychological support.

“I’m thoroughly disappointed, if that were my son or any student in that classroom, and not being able to go to the toilet ... it’s absolutely unacceptable,” Ms Rodgers said.

“Children who come into the classroom should feel safe … and our staff do that and these are really serious allegations and this behaviour is unacceptable.”

But parents say not enough was done by the school at the time, including allowing the teacher to remain in the classroom despite other teachers witnessing children crying and being anxious; some refusing to re-enter the classroom.

It resulted in another teacher monitoring the relief teacher by opening concertina doors to their classroom for the rest of the day.

Erin said the students were not empowered the way they should have been, the relief teacher was not removed and parents were not even notified about the day’s events by the school.

“Especially in this day in age, if you don’t feel safe or feel violated you tell an adult you trust, the children’s experience absolutely has been diminished,” she said.

Another father, Ricky, said his son was among a dozen students who witnessed up close the assault on the special needs student but wasn’t believed by the principal.

“My issue was once the information was received, the principal did not take enough responsibility for what happened,” he said on 6PR.

“My young fella didn’t want to go back to school on Monday because he was concerned about what if there was another relief teacher.”

The only positive the parents took out of the situation was that the children had looked out for each other and filed letters as part of the incident report.

“I could not be more proud of how she stood up for herself and these kids,” Erin said.



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1 comment

  • Paul Schluter

    There are numerous issues with being a relief teacher. You are generally unfamiliar with the class, don’t know the students’ names and behaviour is more difficult. Usually a relief teacher will arrive around 830am and receive a 5-10 minute briefing and may not be aware of any special needs students in the class. It’s always hard to know if students are usually using a toilet break to go for a wander, because they’re bored, to check their phones or they really heed to go. Often a student will ask to go to the toilet straight after recess or lunch. If a child asks you to go to the toilet at 2:55pm they may not come back and go home early. Students are generally given two main toilet breaks during the school day, recess and lunch. Relief teaching is usually a rewarding but incredibly varied job. Schools vary in the standards of behaviour and achievement. Generally more affluent areas score higher academically with fewer behaviour problems. While putting a child in a headlock would be rarely used it is a method of restraint which may have been used to protect the student from harming others or themselves. Some behaviours relief teachers witness are extreme such as common assault and must eventually be dealt with by the police.

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