ACTED QUICKLY: Kamo High principal Jo Hutt said she acted immediately regarding a teacher drinking at work.
ACTED QUICKLY: Kamo High principal Jo Hutt said she acted immediately regarding a teacher drinking at work. Herald

Suspension for teacher found drunk during class

SOME Kamo High School students taught by a maths teacher who was at times drunk during lessons were adversely affected by his behaviour, a disciplinary tribunal found.

Stephen Thorpe Collins, who taught mathematics at the Whangarei school between July 2015 and April last year, has been suspended from teaching for two years.

Mr Collins told the Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal that he was an alcoholic and drank heavily outside teaching hours but did not see that this health issue had impacted on his students or ability to teach.

The tribunal's report stated witnesses had seen him drinking between classes and in the back of his car during the lunch break.

It said Mr Collins' use of alcohol amounted "to serious misconduct as it was likely to adversely affect the learning of students, and reflect poorly on his fitness to teach".

Some students who had been expected to gain merit or excellence grades failed papers, the report said, but Kamo High principal Jo Hutt said there was not a proven link.

Ms Hutt said Mr Collins' problem was discovered early in the school year and no students' grades had been affected.

The "adverse" effect on students was that they knew it was not appropriate for him to be drunk or drinking at school, she said.

Ms Hutt said she acted immediately by suspending Mr Collins the day a student came to her with concerns about smelling alcohol on him.

She described the experience as "sad all round".

"Mr Collins was an extremely intelligent man. He had had a major career in the British navy and he was employed by the school on the basis of his very good qualifications."

The tribunal said his conduct had lowered the reputation and good standing of the teaching profession in the public's view.

The summary of facts revealed Mr Collins had two convictions for drink-driving, in 2011 and 2013.

His censure included his teaching certificate suspension and, should he want to return to teaching after the two year period, the condition he must submit to breath or blood tests if required by his employer.

Mr Collins will attend Alcoholics Anonymous and seek other medical help.

Both he and Kamo High School applied for name suppression in the hearing held in December last year, the decision and report of which was recently released.

Mr Collins had to be held accountable for his drinking affecting his ability to fulfil his obligations, and arguments calling for name suppression did not displace the need for open justice, the tribunal said.

As for the school, it had not caused or influenced the teacher's conduct and had dealt with the matter properly, giving appropriate weight to issues raised by the students and other staff.

"In our view, the parents and community may see this in a positive light," the report said.