The Teachers Are Blowing Their Whistles!

Subtitle

LNP member Howard Hobbs : the Minister of Education needs to take a look at the Department of Education process for disciplinary inquiries.

On 14 November 2012 LNP member Howard Hobbs called in the Queensland State Parliament for the Education Minister to look into the Department of Education "disciplinary inquiry process".

 

Staff are being suspended without knowing the allegations against them

Departmental investigations take too long.

  

"At an appropriate time during an investigation, the relevant officer will be provided with the broad and specific nature of allegations against them and then provided every opportunity to respond to and clarify their position with respect to any complaint."

"The department's procedures in this regard are monitored and endorsed by the CMC and reflect contemporary and approved investigative pracice," said "Mr Allen" (presumably a senior officer in the Department of Education)."

 

Robina Cosser says : This was NOT my experience, Mr Allen.

During the years 2000 - 2006 the departmental investigation processes seemed to be totally dysfunctional - in particular, it was riddled with conflicts of interest.

And when I rang the Crime and Misconduct Commission to complain about the endless delays, the profound conflicts of interest, the 'lost documents', the falsified documents, etc. , the CMC officers just told me that it was "not their responsibility".

 

If the investigation process is working properly now, Mr Allen, prove it.

Give us the figures.

  

Charleville State High School Principal Tracy Tully was suspended in April 2011.

She only learnt about some of the allegations against her when she read an article.

 

Suspension inquiry call, Tanya Chilcott, P.13, The Courier-Mail, 27 November 2012.

Queensland government departments take years to complete investigations - and then more years to reach a decision that's often wrong.

It's a bit rich of Anna Bligh to complain about insurance companies taking too long to pay clients after the 2011 Queensland floods.

She heads government departments that can take years to complete investigations - and then more years to make a decision that's often wrong.

We are told that it is so appallingly slow because of "due process".

Queensland needs an efficient government that can conduct proper investigations and make decisions in a timely and professional manner.

Peter Todd, Tin Can Bay, Queensland, Letter to the Editor, p. 32, The Courier-Mail, Thursday 29 September 2011.

How the Queensland Department of Education "investigation process" works for classroom teachers.

The Queensland Teachers' Union ( QTU ) describe how the Queensland Department of Education and Training ( DET ) "investigation process" worked for one Queensland classroom teacher -

One day in 2008 a student's father sent a letter to the school, falsely accusing this teacher of having an inappropriate relationship with a classmate of his child.

The teacher was escorted out of the school.

She was told nothing - nothing about the letter, nothing about the allegations.

She was simply told that she was suspended.

And the teacher was forbidden to contact - 

 * any person who worked for the Department of Education and Training,

 * anybody with any link to a DET school, 

* any student

* and any parent of a student.

So the teacher became a virtual prisoner in her home.

You can imagine the effect that this isolation had on her mental health.

After four months, the classroom teacher was called in for an interview with the DET Ethical Standards Unit.

She was officially told the parent's allegations for the first time.

The classroom teacher was concerned about the behaviour of the investigators - they "just listened to what they wanted to listen to".

After another two months the matter was transferred to workforce relations.

And after another eight months the allegations were declared "unsubstantiated".

The allegations were not found to be untrue, you notice, just unsubstantiated - so the suggestion is still on this teachers' official record that the allegations may be true.

 

The classroom teacher points out that Queensland students are not suspended before -

 * they have been given an opportunity to respond to the allegations against them

 * and they know why they are being suspended.

Because their parents would protest if their children were treated in such an unjust manner.

So why are Queensland classroom teachers exposed to this sort of workplace abuse?

 

The teacher contrasts her own dedication to her work with the Queensland Department of Education and Training's lack of concern for her welfare.

Investigations : guilty until proven innocent? P. 19, Queensland Teachers' Journal, Volume 33 number 2 : 12 March 2010.

How the Queensland Department of Education "independent investigation process" works for principals.

In December 2000, a Queensland classroom teacher made an official "Grievance" to the District Director about the behaviour of her principal.

The District Director sent the complaint back to the school, so that the principal could investigate himself.

The principal investigated himself.

The principal refused to speak to seven teachers who had seen the classroom teacher teach over a period of two years, and who all supported the teacher.

The principal found himself innocent.

And the classroom teacher was repeatedly threatened that, if she continued to complain, "action would be taken against her".

In September 2001, the teacher complained to the Director-General that there was a systemic problem with the "Grievance process", and that Queensland classroom teachers were being driven into ill health and out of work.

In July 2002 the classroom teacher was repeatedly assured by the District Director that the bullying was under control.

She believed the District Director.

She gratefully accepted retirement on the grounds of ill health.

And a couple of days later the bully principal was promoted.

This seemed very odd.

In January 2003 this promotion was confirmed, and it became obvious to the classroom teacher that she had been tricked.

So she complained to the Queensland Ombudsman and the Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission ( CMC ).

The Ombudsman and the CMC refused to do anything.

The teacher applied for her records under Freedom of Information ( FOI ).

Suddenly the CMC swung into action.

And the teacher's CMC complaint was sent to DET for investigation.

Over a period of several years the teacher's DET documents were slowly and reluctantly dribbled out to her under FOI.

The teacher discovered that the official records of the investigation had been extensively falsified.

She complained to the CMC about this situation over and over again.

Finally, in late 2005, DET chose a local "independent investigator" to investigate the teacher's complaint.

The "independent investigation" took months because each small step of the "independent investigation" had to be approved by DET.

The principal was finally interviewed in early 2006.

He told the "independent investigator" that he could not remember anything about the incident.

"It was all so long ago".

He could not remember what was recorded in his own documents.

And the "independent investigator" simply copied the principal's words into his report, even though they were obviously untrue.

In January 2008 the CMC accepted this "independent investigation".

And a senior CMC officer issued orders that no CMC officer was allowed to speak to the classroom teacher on the phone, or to read any of her letters.

The records of the 2006 "independent investigation" - a few of them - were, after long delay, finally released to the classroom teacher under Freedom of Information in January 2009.

The classroom teacher immediately wrote to the CMC and protested about the corruption of the CMC / DET "investigation" process.

But the junior CMC officers had been ordered to disregard the classroom teacher's letters, and so they followed their orders.

The classroom teacher's protests were ignored.

And her official records are now even more extensively falsified.

The Queensland CMC / DET "investigation process" seems to facilitate the workplace abuse of Queensland classroom teachers.

Queensland Department of Education "disciplinary processes" are unjust - and are wide open to abuse by principals and senior officers of the Department of Education.

Too many trivial "issues" concerning classroom teachers are being "beaten up" and put forward to be investigated by the Department of Education Ethical Standards Unit.

For example, a principal can simply claim that "confidential allegations" have been made against a teacher.

This claim may be totally untrue.

It may be a "payback" situation.

Or it may be a "beat up" of some simple incident.

But the resulting Ethical Standards Unit "investigative process" can take years.

And this delay facilitates the workplace abuse.

The classroom teacher's health will almost certainly be broken down by the stress of the abuse.

Then, years later, the principal can just tell the Ethical Standards Unit investigator that "it was all so long ago" and that they really can't remember what they did or why they did it.

Too easy.

 

Classroom teachers may never find out what was being "alleged" against them.

This makes it impossible for the classroom teacher to ever respond to the "allegations".

So they can never prove themselves innocent.

 

Investigators may refuse to interview witnesses who are supportive of the teacher.  

 

Investigators may put a huge mass of falsified documents on the teacher's investigation file, creating the false impression that the falsified documents have been discussed with the teacher during their "investigation".

 

Investigators may only be allowed by the Ethical Standards Branch to examine documents that have been provided to them by the classroom teacher.

But the classroom teacher may not be allowed to know the "Terms of Reference" of the investigation.

So the classroom teacher has no way of knowing what documents to give the investigator.

 

The "Terms of Reference" of the investigation may be continually changed.

If the teacher manages to respond to an allegation and to disprove it, the allegation can simply be changed.

Again and again and again.

 

If the classroom teacher makes a Freedom of Information application, all copies of Education Queensland investigation reports may be declared "lost".

But decisions concerning the classroom teacher will have been based on these "lost" investigation reports.

And then other decisions will be based on these decisions based on the "lost" investigation report.

And so it continues.

A chain of decisions based on decisions based on a "lost" investigation report.

 

A junior Aboriginal employee of Education Queensland with no qualifications in education, law or psychology may be used by the Ethical Standards Unit to conduct faux "internal reviews". 

You may consider that Aboriginal employees of the Department of Education who are used in this manner are being abused and exploited.

 

This Aboriginal "internal reviewer" - who identifies with a primarily oral culture - may not be allowed to speak to the classroom teacher.

 

He may be instructed to base his "internal review" on the huge mass of falsifed "records" that have secretly been placed on the classroom teachers' file.

 

And he may be instructed not to "consider" the classroom teacher's written response to the mass of falsified "records".

An "internal reviewer" can claim to have "inferred" almost any gibberish "from the documents".

He can claim to have "inferred" the exact opposite of what is actually written in the documents.

 

The Aboriginal "internal reviewer" may conduct his "internal review" under the close direction of the senior officer whose behaviour the teacher is complaining about.

He will be allowed to speak to this officer.

 

The "internal review" written by a junior Aboriginal employee of the Department of Education may be described to the Crime and Misconduct Commission ( CMC ) as an "independent investigation"

 - which it certainly is not.

But that is what will be will be on the official records of the Crime and Misconduct Commission.

 

And CMC officers will be instructed not to respond to the classroom teachers' letters telling them about this or any other matter.

 

Etc. etc. etc.

How long have Queensland teachers been complaining about the abuse of the Queensland Department of Education investigation process? - Since April 1934!

On 24 April 1934 - 76 years ago - the Queensland Teachers' Union noted -

The Executive of the Union, which realises that one of its most important functions is to protect its members ...

notes the increased feeling of unrest engendered by the haphazardness of the Departmental system of receiving complaints and holding enquiries ...

an unsatisfactory state of affairs undoubtedly exists. ...

Teaching in an atmosphere of uneasiness is not calculated to allow the teacher to give of his best ...

The Council has now forwarded to the Minister for Public Instruction a letter as follows :

16 April 1934

Sir,

I have been dircted by the Executive Council of the QTU to present to you the following resolutions which were passed at its meeting held on Saturday, 7 April 2034.

These resolutions were passed unanimously, and are the outcome of the alarm with which teachers view the increasing frequency of complaints made to the Department by parents and others concerning the alleged misdemeanors of teachers.

We believe that many of these would not be made if the complainants were made to carry the full responsibility of their statements and be answerable for them in a court of law, if necessary.

The resolutions, which were given the thoughtful and earnest consideration of members of the council, are as follows, viz :-

 1. That a complaint against a teacher be not entertained unless made in writing and signed by the complainant.

 2. That the full text of a complaint - not extracts from it - be supplied to the teacher concerned for his comments thereon.

 3. That if the Department is not satisfied with the explanation offered by the teacher, the following fundamental principles be rigidly observed in the holding of an enquiry, viz. :-

  a) No enquiry to be held until at least one week after the teacher has been supplied with a copy of the charge. The reason for asking this is to allow the teacher time to prepare his defence.

  b) Evidence to be taken on oath. ...

  c) Enquiry to be held as soon as possible after the expiration of the week's notice referred to above. ...

Eunice's rule book is a blast from the past, P. 21, Queensland Teachers' Journal, Volume 33 number 2, 12 March 2010.

 

What is really shocking about this QTU letter to the Minister is that, 76 years later, Queensland teachers still do not have these rights.

 1. Your principal may not tell you that allegations have been made against you.

You may simply be told that a decision has been made, for secret reasons, to put you on Managing Unsatisfactory Performance.

There may not have been any allegations at all - your principal may actually be "hearing voices" and recording these imaginary conversations, then putting the "records" of her imaginary conversations concerning you in a secret file.

Your principal may be a psychopath - or may even be stark raving mad.

But the Department have no official processes for dealing with psychopathic school principals.

 2. You may not discover that these imaginary "allegations" were made against you till you make a Freedom of Information application.

Then all copies of the imaginary "allegations" will be "lost" under Freedom of Information.

But the decisions based on these imaginary "allegations" can never be removed from your official records.

 3.

  a) So, even when you discover that the principal has been secretly recording the imaginary 'allegations" that she has been "hearing", you will never be allowed to know what these 'allegations" were.

So you will never, ever, be able to prove yourself innocent and have the decisions based on these "allegations" removed from your official records.

  c) And any investigation into the principal's behavior will be delayed for six and a half years - so, for example, if you officially request an investigation into the principal's behaviour in December 2000, the principal will be investigated in mid-2006 - so the principal can claim to be unable to remember what she did or why she did it.

And then a copy of the 2006 "investigation" results will be refused to you under Freedom of Information till January 2009.

 

You don't believe this, do you?

Nobody believes it till it happens to them.

The systemic abuse of the "investigation process" is a major problem in the Queensland Department of Education.

But nobody will take responsibility for dealing with the problem.

So Queensland teachers are exposed to abuse at work.

In November 2008 the State Council of the Queensland Teachers' Union (QTU) at last responded to the unjust treatment of Queensland teachers during Departmental "investigations".

In November 2008 the QTU was planning to launch a campaign to persuade the Queensland Department of Education to change their unjust "disciplinary processes".

To this date - September 2011 - little progress seems to have been made.

 

Time to bring justice to investigations, Paige Bousen, Acting Assistant Secretary - Services Co-Ordination, and Mark Anghel, Assistant Secretary - Legal Services / Welfare, p.21, Queensland Teachers' Journal, Volume 32 number 4, 5 June, 2009.

 

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