The Government will today introduce legislation into Parliament to amend the Teacher Registration and Standards Act 2004 to enable the Teachers Registration Board to immediately suspend the registration of a teacher charged with serious criminal offences, including rape, murder and drug dealing.
Existing provisions mean that if the Board becomes aware of serious charges laid against a teacher, it may need to await the outcome of related court action before it can commence a disciplinary process.
A teacher’s registration currently remains valid while any court proceedings and subsequent disciplinary inquiries are underway.
This means that while a teacher charged with serious offences would be stood down from their current employment, they could potentially seek employment in another school or as a private tutor.
Education Minister John Gardner said the current provisions in the Act need to change.
“Every day across South Australia, our teachers work hard to improve the lives of students and contribute to a well-educated and engaged society – they deserve the trust and respect of our community,” said Minister Gardner.
“Our teachers registration process rightly requires high professional standards and demands that teachers registered in South Australia are not only competent educators, but are also fit and proper persons to have the care of children.
“However, the Teachers Registration Board has brought it to the Government’s attention that current provisions in the Act potentially allow teachers to present themselves as suitable for employment in a school setting, despite being the subject of serious criminal charges relevant to the safety of children.
“We believe that teachers facing such serious charges should not remain on the register while these matters are being finalised.
“The new Bill will allow the Board to immediately suspend the registration of a teacher, or vary the conditions of a teacher’s registration, if they are charged with a prescribed offence.
“We must do everything we can to keep our children and young people safe at school and to uphold the integrity of the teachers’ register.”
The legislation has been welcomed by the Teachers Registration Board, which seeks to close the loophole.
“The Board undertook consultation with a range of stakeholders about the proposed changes including representative organisations for the education sectors, principals, unions, parent groups and providers of initial teacher education,” said Dr Jane Lomax-Smith, Chair of the Teachers Registration Board.
“I expect these changes to be welcomed by school communities, and by the overwhelming majority of teachers who dedicate their lives to giving our next generation the best possible start in life.”