A private school teacher sacked for hugging a student claims he was unfairly dismissed.
The man also downloaded porn on his work computer, in breach of the college’s policies.
However, he claims the school breached the Fair Work Act and an enterprise bargaining agreement by sacking him.
Private school teacher sacked for hugging student
Simon Parris worked as a maths teacher at St Kevin’s College, a Catholic boys’ school in Toorak in Melbourne.
He also co-ordinated theatre productions at the college.
He admitted in the Fair Work Commission that he sometimes hugged students during rehearsals.
However, he said he meant them as acts of encouragement.
Hugging student despite previous warning
The incident that led to his sacking happened in June 2019, despite then-headmaster Stephen Russell warning him to stop hugging boys at the school.
Parris admitted he pulled the boy out of class, sat beside him on a couch and put his arm across the boy’s shoulders.
He subsequently said he “made a very bad mistake and it involved crossing a professional boundary”.
The Commission heard the boy, referred to as Student A, has suffered anxiety since that day and continues to feel anger about the incident.
Another student, “Student B”, who witnessed the incident, described it as an “extended embrace”.
Parris disputes this description.
Porn on work computer
Parris also admitted to viewing pornography on his work laptop, in breach of school policies.
The Commission heard he downloaded and copied a number of pornographic films onto his work computer, watched them while on holidays in 2017 and later deleted them.
4 Corners report
St Kevin’s principal John Crowley sacked Parris on 20 February, the day after he replaced Mr Russell as St Kevin’s headmaster.
After a controversial ‘4 Corners’ report about alleged child grooming at St Kevin’s went to air, the school sacked several teachers, including Parris.
The Victorian Institute of Teaching subsequently suspended Parris’ registration on 16 March.
The 29-year veteran teacher admitted some of his behaviour was wrong, particularly the incident with Student A and his use of a work laptop to view porn.
However, he maintains his dismissal had been unfair and that he should still be allowed to teach.
“I believe that there are things I’ve done wrong that I’ve admitted to and I’m sorry for, and I’ve learnt from them and I’m ready to continue working.”
Dismissal process ‘deplorable’
Barrister Jamie Darams, for Parris, described the process Crowley used on his first day in the role of acting headmaster to terminate Parris as “deplorable”.
He claimed the headmaster breached both the Fair Work Act and the college’s enterprise bargaining agreement.
“Mr Crowley was not interested at all in trying to understand Mr Parris’ position,” Mr Darams said.
“The Commission will be satisfied Mr Parris has been dealt with egregiously.”
The four day hearing concludes tomorrow.
Commissioner Tim Lee will hand down his decision at a later date.
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