Teacher lands in hot water with response to unruly student

Once upon a time if you were a student caught doing the wrong thing in class it usually ended with

Once upon a time if you were a student caught doing the wrong thing in class it usually ended with you making a trip to the principal’s office and a swift smack across the hands or butt with a cane.

Not anymore.

Peter Charles Rowlingson from Melville High School in New Zealand has been found guilty of serious misconduct towards a student by the NZ Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal and ordered to pay a fine of almost $3,500.

The incident in question happened in 2015, when the student was caught throwing potentially dangerous metal washers in Rowlingson’s class. It happened after another student had been verbally disciplined by the teacher for the exact same action only moments before.

Concerned about the safety of his students, Rowlingson felt the only way to see an end to such behaviour was a swift kick up the butt to the second offending student, which was described Rowlingson as making “contact with Student A’s bottom with the inside of his boot” in a statement.

Using physical contact to punish or correct a student’s behaviour has been banned in NZ for decades, so it’s hardly surprising the teacher was found guilty of physical abuse and serious misconduct.

But the decision by the tribunal has had a mixed response.

While some say Rowlingson was lucky not to have been dismissed from his position at the school, citing that kids are renowned for challenging teachers’ authority and it was the teacher’s responsibility to look at discipline in the classroom, others have said the action was appropriate.

“If a kid’s throwing washers around he’s not studying, he’s not a student,” former teacher Joe Bennett told Stuff.co.nz.

“Let’s say a bit of metal had caught some kid in the eye. What happens to the teacher then?

“I’m not calling for wholesale thumping of children or whatever. Let’s put it in very simple playground terms: the boy started it. And the boy was told to stop and the boy opted to continue.”

What do you think about this situation — was the teacher right in his response to the student’s unruly behaviour, or did he overstep the market in his duty of care?