A Hearing Panel has handed down findings on former Victorian teacher Shane Osmond, declaring his teacher registration status cancelled, with a five-year period of disqualification.
In April 2017, the Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT) received a notification from the Victorian Department of Education and Training regarding Mr Osmond’s conduct, which had alleged systematic emotional manipulation and improper conversations with a student comprising sexual innuendo. Mr Osmond’s registration was suspended pending the investigation.
Following the recent amendment to Education and Training Reform Act 2006, VIT now has formal and important responsibilities to protect the wellbeing and safety of children.
As the independent statutory authority responsible for the regulation of teachers in Victoria which provides for the safety and wellbeing of children and young people, VIT is responsible for investigating serious misconduct and fitness to teach and, if necessary, exercising disciplinary functions relating to teacher conduct.
Hearing Panels consider matters referred to them by VIT, and are comprised of members who are independently appointed by the Victorian Government.
VIT CEO Peter Corcoran said after considering the evidence in this case, the Panel found that Mr Osmond failed to maintain a professional relationship with the student.
“In the course of the hearing, the Panel found Mr Osmond’s behaviour constituted a substantial departure from the expectations of a member of the teaching profession and therefore amounted to serious misconduct,” Mr Corcoran said.
“This decision shows both the Hearing Panel and VIT’s approaches are in-line with our new child safety mandate,” he said.
“All of our activities - from registering teachers, performing criminal record checks, communicating with and informing teachers on the code of conduct, compliance audits to ensure only registered teachers are teaching in Victorian schools, investigating misconduct, and setting standards - are important facets of our contribution to the wellbeing and safety of children.”
Mr Corcoran acknowledged that while Mr Osmond’s actions were improper, they do not reflect the professionalism and high ethical standards practiced by the vast majority of Victorian teachers.
“VIT is working with schools and early childhood providers to ensure that all Victorian children and young people have the best teachers.”
The Hearing Panel declared Mr Osmond’s teacher registration status cancelled, with a five-year period of disqualification. Mr Osmond will be able to reapply for teacher registration after the disqualification period, however his suitability to teach will be thoroughly investigated as part of VIT’s normal application process.
During the hearing, an order was made declaring that the name of the school, affected student and witnesses were not to be published to protect them from undue distress.
The Hearing Panel found that Mr Osmond systematically attempted to engage a student in sexualised and highly personal conversations; gave the student gifts; offered free driving lessons; and generally behaved in a manner that went beyond the expectations of how a teacher should conduct themselves.
Upon being notified of the behaviour, the Principal spoke to Mr Osmond, who resigned. VIT was notified and Mr Osmond’s registration was suspended pending the investigation.
The Hearing Panel found Mr Osmond’s behaviour to be characterised by a pattern of growing familiarity to the point of obsession, loss of objectivity and a desire to create what he himself described as ‘an indestructible friendship’.
Mr Osmond chose not to attend the panel hearing.
How does VIT investigate teacher conduct?
Teacher conduct is reported to VIT through schools and early childhood settings, members of the public, Victoria Police, the Commission for Children and Young People (CCYP), as well as other sources. VIT investigates the allegations and provides a report to a Professional Conduct Committee, which decides if the case goes to a hearing.
The independent hearing panels are responsible for conducting the hearing of these cases and testing the evidence. VIT presents the cases before the hearing panels and the teacher has the right to attend the hearing and present their case.
Following a finding of misconduct, serious misconduct, serious incompetence or a lack of fitness to teach, a hearing panel can make one or more of the following determinations – that the teacher
- be cautioned;
- be reprimanded;
- has conditions placed on their registration;
- has their registration suspended;
- has their registration cancelled; or
- be disqualified from applying for registration for a period of time if registration is cancelled.
A Hearing Panel’s decision is legally binding; VIT must abide by its decision.
Read more on how VIT investigates teacher conduct.
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