Bad Apple Bullies

Bad Apple school principals and departmental officers bully classroom teachers into ill health and out of work.

Why a NSW science teacher was refused Workers Compensation for 'workplace bullying'. 

Teachers work so hard to become qualified.

And then they put their trust in their employers to provide them with reasonable working conditions and to protect them from workplace abuse.

This case raises many issues -

a) This teacher's mother had recently died. 

The teacher herself had just been diagnosed with diabetes.

But her principal put her on a Teacher Improvement Program (TIP). 

Wasn't this rather harsh?  

b) Was this teacher being "paid back" because she had a poor working relationship with her supervisor?

The teacher was working with hundreds of children.

Were a very few complaints over several years "beaten up" and repeated (supervisor to deputy to principal to doctor to Workers' Compensation Commission) to unfairly discredit her?

Are most teachers in Australia vulnerable to this malicious "beating up" of complaints against them? 

c) Is it fair that the NSW Department of Education TIP system allows the people who make the allegations against a teacher to be the same people who are given responsibility for " improving" the teacher and the same people who then find that the teacher has failed to "improve" to their satisfaction?

Why aren't these people held responsible for being incompetent " Teacher Improvers"? 

This case seems to suggest that NSW classroom teachers need a TIP system that involves upwards evaluation as well as downwards evaluation. 

Downwards evaluation alone seems to be too vulnerable to workplace mobbing (bullying by a group). 

d) Research suggests that many school principals and teachers become so stressed by their work that they have to go on medication to cope.

Could the department be held responsible for providing an unsafe workplace for many teachers?

Could these medicated teachers - all vulnerable to being ill-health retired - raise a class action against the department for negligence? 

e) The school obviously dedicated a huge amount of staff time in dealing with this situation.

There would have been significant disruption to staff and students.

Is there a better, more resource-effective way of dealing with this sort of situation?

f) Was this teacher effectively advised and supported by the New South Wales Teachers Federation?

 


This teachers' story may help other teachers to understand the Workers' Compensation system.

She was refused Workers' Compensation.

Why? 

 

Badapplebullies editor's note : The numbers in brackets () below refer to paragraphs in the Worker's Compensation Decision. 

The science teacher's story.

In 2008 Ms E was a 56-year-old senior science teacher working at a high school in Western Sydney.

Ms E had been a science teacher for more than 30 years. 

Her students' results in external exams such as the School Certificate were really good. 

 

Nowadays Ms E often meets ex-students who are really appreciative of her work and of the results they obtained in their exams.

 

But in 2008, unknown to those students, the school principal put Ms E on the dreaded TIP - Teacher Improvement Program.

Why?

 

Since the early 1980's : Ms E had been taking anti-depressant medication to deal with workplace stress.

Ms E was born in 1952.

By 2008, Ms E had been a science teacher for more than 30 years.

Ms E told the Workers Compensation Commission that she had been taking anti-depressant medication "on and off" since the early 1980's because of work-related stress.(54)

The Badapplebullies editor says : This suggests to me that Ms E first needed medication in her early 30's to cope with the stress of teaching.

This, to me, seems like a very important issue :  so many teachers and school principals seem to be taking medication to help them deal with the stress of the job.

You have to wonder why anybody would want to work in a job that is so stressful that it requires you to be permanently medicated in order to cope.


The problem with taking medication is that -

a) It may have side effects, especially if you are taking it "on and off".

b) Once you begin taking medication, any problems become problems with you - the fact you are taking medication means you are "not up to scratch".

You then seem to become very vulnerable to workplace bullying.

You see that pattern in the case of the Burpengary teacher. 

 

I would suggest that the NSW Department of Education (and all other department of education around Australia), knowing how many teachers and principals are on medication to deal with the stress of the job, have a Workplace health and Safety responsibility to take steps to reduce the stress of teaching. 

 

Ms E had a long-term poor relationship with Head Science teacher Mrs W.

Ms E described a number of incidents involving Head Teacher Mrs W to the Workers Compensation Commission. 

Ms E alleged that Mrs W sometimes screamed at her in front of other teachers and would make derogatory comments about her in front of other teachers.

Mrs E alleged that Mrs W had a habit of openly showing her dissatisfaction in front of other teachers, then apologising quietly (or praising) when nobody else was around.(55)

 

Head Science Teacher Mrs W told the Workers Compensation Commission that -

a) She never screamed at Ms E, but on occasions she had disagreed with Ms E's comments and had confidently expressed her opinion about Department of Education procedures, policies and school matters. (122)

b) She had not made derogatory comments about Ms E in front of her fellow teachers at science faculty meetings. (122) 

c) Ms E showed frustration at times at these meetings in having to adapt her teaching to changes to syllabus, assessments and marking brought about by the Board of Studies. 

This would be a very common reaction. Many experienced teachers become frustrated with continual changes to the syllabus.

 

Ms E told the Workers Compensation Commission that when she needed Head Science Teacher Mrs W's advice on a matter, Mrs W would ignore her and turn away or would simply not be available. (55)

Head Science teacher Mrs W denied ignoring or turning away from Ms E  when Ms E asked for advice.

Mrs W said there were times when she was unable to provide support with student discipline because she was teaching, needed to be at a meeting, etc. (123)


I think this is fair enough. Mrs W should have been able to concentrate on her teaching without being asked to deal with problem students from other classes. 

But teachers do need to send disruptive students somewhere. 

The school procedures for dealing with problem students needed to be re-thought.

 

 Ms E alleges that Head Science Teacher Mrs W  had put an unfair number of difficult students in her classes in 2008.(55, 62)

 I do not know anything about the situation at Mrs E's school, but those of us who are experienced teachers know that it is a real possibility.

Teachers can be harassed and 'paid back' by senior officers in this way - or by being given the most ramshackle or noisy classrooms, deprived of resources, etc, etc.

 

Head Science Teacher Mrs W denied that the applicant had a higher number of "problematic" students in her class than any other teacher.

Mrs W said that the applicant had her fair share of high, middle and low grade students.(125)

Senior Science Teacher Mrs W seems to have side-stepped the issue here -  Ms E did not seem to be complaining about the ability level of the students.

Mrs E's complaint seems to have been that she had been given an unfair number of behaviourally-disturbed students. 

 

Head Science teacher Mrs W stated that at no time did she bully, harass or not provide support to Ms E when she worked at Colo High School. (223)

 

The Workers Compensation Commission comments : 

I accept the evidence of Head Science Teacher Mrs W on this issue. (223) 

 

To my mind, this poor relationship is the key problem - Ms E's long-term poor relationship with the Head Science Teacher seems to have begun the chain of events that led to her becoming increasingly stressed and unable to function effectively. 

 

To my mind this is a Workplace Health and Safety issue - the NSW TIP process seems to be vulnerable to workplace bullying and mobbing in that one teacher can create a difficult working environment for another, allege complaints (which I know from my own experience may be prompted, exagerated or even totally falsified),  then be appointed the "supporter" who fails to support the teacher effectively, then be appointed the judge who finds the teacher a failure.


My feeling is that there is a need for impartial judges to be appointed in this sort of situation (like the old school inspectors).

And the judges should also judge the quality of the "support" being given by the school to the teacher. 

Because the present NSW TIP Work Performance evaluation is only done downwards and not upwards.

A downwards TIP evaluation process alone is vulnerable to workplace mobbing (bullying by a group) and does not capture the whole picture of the situation.

2006 : Did Ms E really have work performance issues?

Deputy Principal W told the Workers Compensation Commission that since "about 2006" Head Science Teacher Mrs W had regularly advised her that there were work performance issues with Ms E - classroom management, planning of units of work and lessons, failure to meet deadlines for reports and marking work. 

 

a) Notice that the TIP process seems to enable one teacher - with whom Ms E had a poor relationship -  to raise concerns about Mrs E and then to have her negative comments repeated by others in a very automatic step-by-step process that seems to have only one possible outcome - Ms E being driven onto the TIP and on to breakdown and out of work. 

The TIP does seem to be very, very vulnerable to workplace mobbing. 

b) And what is the real aim of the TIP - to support teachers, or to get rid of them?

I would suggest there is a need for some independent research into the NSW TIP.

How many NSW teachers actually manage to 'improve' during the Teachers Improvement Program? 

Because if teachers are not improving, it seems to me that the 'improvement' process is failing.

And you have to wonder why all of these experienced senior educators are unable to help teachers to 'improve'.

 

Deputy Principal W had advised Mrs W to have regular meetings with Ms E to give her support. (86)

The Badapplebullies editor comments :  Did Deputy Principal W and Head Science Teacher Mrs W keep records of their meetings and discussions?

If so, why does Deputy Principal Ms W say since "about 2006"?

Surely Deputy Principal Ms W would know exactly when she had these discussions with HST Mrs W?

And did Head Science Teacher Mrs W keep records of the regular meetings with Ms E at which she 'supported' her?

Because if Head Science Teacher Mrs W had been 'supporting' Ms E since 2006, then surely she herself had failed, if Ms E continued to fail?

Deputy Principal W also told the Workers Compensation Commission  that for the past 3-4 years Ms E's teacher assessment and review schedule showed issues with classroom management and completion of marking and reports.(86)

The Badapplebullies editor comments  : I presume that Deputy Principal W provided the Workers Compensation Commission with documentary evidence to support this allegation. 

Ms E seemed to show no awareness of these issues having been concerns for such a long period of time.

 

If this allegation is correct, it means that Ms E's problems with marking pre-dated her mother's death and her own illness.

It is a very significant allegation. 

In December 2007 Ms E's mother died.

In December 2007 Ms E's mother died after an illness.

Ms E had to deal with her mother's funeral and estate processes between December 2007 and February 2008. (23)

In 2008 Ms E's Year 7 and 9 classes were very poorly behaved.

In early 2008, Ms E's Year 7 and 9 classes were very poorly behaved.

Ms E alleges that Head Science Teacher Mrs W - with whom she had a long-term poor relationship - had put an unfair number of difficult students in her classes in 2008.(55, 62)

Ms E sent one misbehaving child to Head Science Teacher Mrs W (this was the school procedure for dealing with misbehaving students).

HST Mrs W sent the child back to Ms E after a few minutes.

Ms E felt that this undermined her in the eyes of her students.

Head Science Teacher Mrs W later told Ms E that she had her own class to deal with and could not deal with misbehaving students from Ms E's classes as well. 

HST Mrs W told Ms E to send misbehaving student to Deputy Principal C for discipline. (25)

 

Ms E says the school system for reporting poorly behaved students was very time-consuming.

Teachers had to spend a lot of time after school typing up reports on incidents of poor behaviour and printing them out.(62)

 

The Badapplebullies editor comments : I think it is fair to say that many of the "procedures" adopted by Australian schools to deal with poorly behaved students do not work well.

The problem for schools is that there are increasing numbers of disruptive students and there is nobody available to supervise the students if they are sent out of class.

Australian teachers need more support in dealing with disruptive students.

 

During Term 1 2008 Ms E was not well. 

During Term 1 2008, Ms E was not well and underwent medical testing.

The medical tests made her feel really exhausted.

At the end of Term 1, 2008, Ms E found out that she was a type 2 diabetic.

The Badapplebullies editor comments : so it would be fair to say that, in addition to her teaching, Ms E "had a lot on her plate" in early 2008, with her mother's death and the diabetes.

Unfortunately, Ms E had  fallen behind in her preparation and marking.

She just felt too tired to do it when she got home.

Her reports were late. (26) 

An important issue here is : was this failure to complete reports on time a long-term problem with Ms E, or was it a one-off problem caused by her struggles to deal with her diabetes? 

Deputy Principal W said there had been complaints.

Deputy Principal Ms W told the Workers Compensation commission that in 2008 there was an increase in complaints from students and parents about student progress and classroom management.(86)

 

The Badapplebullies editor says : but here seem to have been so few previous complaints about Ms E!

Did the parents realise that Ms E was battling with her mother's death and with her recent diagnosis of diabetes?

Would the parents have been more understanding if they had realised that Ms E was ill? 

28 May 2008 : Ms E had a meeting with the school principal.

Ms E alleges that the principal told her that there had been some complaints during the past eight years - 

1) In 2002 - yes, 2002 - a mother had complained that Ms E had degraded a student (who was bright but was refusing to complete assessment tasks) by telling the student that she was not her sister.

Ms E discussed the mother's complaint with the principal at the time and no action was deemed necessary.

The student went on to complete a degree in psychology.

In 2017 she is always happy to see Ms E.

They often have a chat. 

2) In March 2004 - yes 2004 - two students were often chatting in class.

Ms E separated the chatty students and one them (Chatty student A) became very loud and disruptive in class. 

Ms E told the students that she was not happy with their test results and that one person's results would be poor even for the bottom class.

Chatty student A stood up and screamed - "It's me, isn't it?"

Ms E asked Chatty student A to sit down but Chatty student A continued to behave disruptively, demanding that Ms E tell the class that she was the poor student.

To calm her down and to end the disruption of the class, Ms E eventually agreed that Chatty student A was the poor student. 

Several students muttered "What an idiot". 

But Chatty student A went home and complained to her mother.

And Chatty student A's mother complained to the principal.

The principal instructed Ms E never to read out any test results to her students again.

Ms E followed the principal's direction.

But she did allow the students to see their test results in her mark book because she believed that it would help them to understand their performance. 

3)  In August 2004 - yes, 2004 - a child had made an allegation that Ms E had made a certain statement.

Ms E told the principal that she had not made the statement at all. 

As far as Ms E was aware at the time, the child's allegation was considered to be false.

4)  In September 2006 - yes, 2006 - another teacher, Ms X, had misunderstood the rules of an assignment.

Mrs P sent a group of students to talk to Ms X to try to sort out the confusion. 

But Ms X appeared to question the students about Mrs P. 

And Ms E was never thanked for spotting this problem.

Somehow the situation seemed to be spun into aproblem with Ms E!

5) In April 2007 - yes, 2007 - student B was being insolent and disruptive. 

Ms E told him that she would tell his mother about his behaviour.

Student B's mother was a fellow teacher at the high school.

Student B continued to disrupt the class.  

Finally Ms E used the Parent/ Teacher communication area in the Student Planner to advise B's parents that B was being insolent and disruptive in class.

She expected Mr and Mrs B to reply to her message, supporting her.

But Ms E was stunned by the parents' comments in the Student Planner.

The students all knew how badly student B had been behaving.

And they could see that Ms E was stunned by what was written in the diary.

The students asked Ms E what B's parents had written. 

Student B seemed happy - perhaps even proud - for his parents' comment to be read out aloud, so Ms E read it out aloud.

6)  On 5 March 2008 Mrs P,  mother of student P was supposed to have "had a go" at Ms E. 

Ms E does remember student P commenting to her about his mother - " She's scarey, isn't she?" 

But Ms E says she does not remember being abused by Mrs P and there is no official record of any complaint by Mrs P or of any action having been taken in response to a complaint.

The Principal seems to have given the Workers Compensation Commission an undated record that Mr and Mrs P had complained the Ms E was disorganised and that she had made an unprofessional comment in front of her class "Your mother is very scarey, she had a go at me" to their son in 2007. (145)

 

7) On 31 March 2008 Ms E walked behind some disruptive children as they walked from the back of the classroom to the front of the classroom.

She was trying to make sure they settled down.

The principal seems to have considered walking behind these students to be a problem.

The principal provided the Workers Compensation commission with an undated record that Ms E had brought two boys into her classroom because they were running out of another teacher's class.

The boys would not settle so (the principal wrote) Ms E chased them around the room. (145)

8) When children were unruly in class, Ms E often told them she would sit on them if they did not settle down.

It was Ms E's little joke - that she would sit on these disruptive secondary school students. 

Of course she never actually sat on any student.

It was just Ms E's joke. 

But the principal seems to have considered this also to be a problem.

The principal provided the Workers compensation Commission with an undated record of a complaint by one child that "Ms E  threatens to sit on me, chased me around the room, calls me (a nice nick-name) and tries to hug me". 

This sounds like the behaviour of a teacher trying to coax a disruptive child into co-operation. 

 

The Badapplebullies Editor says : Let's get real. 

Teachers work with hundreds of children, many of whom are really, really  difficult.

And difficult students often have difficult parents.

Trivial incidents that could be beaten up into "problems" happen in all classrooms all day long.

The real wonder is that so few complaints had been made about Ms E in so many years.

 

In my opinion,  this is a shockingly trivial list of complaints to use as evidence for putting a teacher on TIP. 


Ms E alleges -

a) None of the above 'complaints' had ever been fully investigated.

b) No written record was kept of any of these 'complaints' or 'concerns'.

c) No action had ever been taken concerning Mrs E in relation to any of these 'complaints'.  

 

 

The principal told the Workers compensation commission that from 2002 there had been regular complaints from parents, students and Head Science Teacher Mrs W concerning Ms E's classroom management, non-completion of marking and reports by due dates, poor lesson preparation and delivery and inappropriate behaviour with students.

He said he had taken various actions to help Ms E to address these issues.

He had referred Ms E to counselling through the Employee Assistance Program, provided support to complete marking and reporting and given her Letters of Direction. (98)

 

The Badapplebullies editor comments : I presume the principal provided copies of these Letters of Direction to the Workers Compensation Commission.

It seems very odd that Ms E made no mention of receiving them.

The Workers Compensation Commission only describe letters from the principal to Ms E dating from June 2009. (233)

 

Ms E says that the NSW Teachers Federation didn't help her much at all.

Ms E says that the NSW Teachers Federation gave her very little support during her TIP.

The NSW Teachers Federation Representative at the school was often unavailable for meetings.

 

Ms E alleges that - because she could not get proper support from the NSW teachers Federation - she asked permission for her daughter to attend the meetings.

Permission was refused.

 

The Badapplebullies editor says : teachers, the best support you can have at this sort of meeting is a tape recorder.

Just put it on the table and switch it on.

It will a) improve professional conduct at the meeting and b) help you to remember what was said accurately. 

On 18 June 2008 Ms E was told that she was going to be placed on a Pre-Improvement Program.

On 18 June 2008 the principal, Head Science Teacher Mrs W and Deputy Principal W met Ms E.

(Ms E says the NSW Teachers Federation Representative was also present at the meeting, but the principal told the Workers Compensation Commission that there was no support person present because it was an 'informal discussion').

Ms E was advised of the main concerns -

* classroom management

* non-completion of reports

* planning and delivery of science lessons (87)

The principal advised Ms E that she was going to be placed on a Pre-Improvement Program.

Deputy Principal W would supervise the program.

Head Science Teacher Mrs W would give her support in planning and developing units of work. (28)

Ms E was to observe other classes to improve her communication. (87)

It seems to have been left to Ms E to organise this observation herself, presumably with Head Science Teacher Mrs W.

On the last Monday of Term 2 2008 the Pre-Improvement Program began.

Senior Science Teacher Mrs W supported Ms E with the development of unit plans and classroom lessons.(89)

On 4 July, 25 July and 6 August Deputy Principal W observed Ms E's science classes with Years 8 and 10.(89)

Deputy Principal C did some class observations. 

(Actually Deputy Principal C did not do all of his observations because he was busy.)(30)

On 10 September 2008 Ms E was told she would be on a formal TIP for ten weeks.

By mid-August 2008, Deputy Principal W told the Workers Compensation Commission, Ms E had not observed any other classes.

It would have been useful for Ms E to observe Head Science Teacher Mrs W's classes. 

Why was this not organised? 

Deputy Principal W said she could see no significant improvement in lesson preparation and delivery.(91)

How could there still be problems with lesson preparation?

Hadn't Head Science Teacher Mrs W been helping Ms E with the development of unit plans and classroom lessons? 

 

On 19 August 2008 the principal, Deputy Principal W and Head Science Teacher Mrs W met Ms E.

Ms E was advised that she would be on a 10 week formal TIP. 

The principal gave her contact details of EAPS and the Teachers federation Welfare Officer. (100)

 

On 10 September 2008 the principal, Head Science Teacher Mrs W, Deputy Principal W and Ms B, the NSW Teachers Federation representative met Ms E.

 

Ms E was told she had failed the Pre-Improvement Program and that she would be on a formal Teacher Improvement Program for ten weeks.(32)

 

Deputy Principal W told the Workers Compensation Commission that Ms E requested mediation with teacher Mr C at this meeting.

Ms E allegedly told the meeting that she had a poor working relationship with teacher Mr C.(94)

 

Ms E asked for the TIP to be delayed for a few weeks to give her a chance to get her diabetes problems sorted out.

The principal asked her to provide him with a medical certificate. (33)(94)

The principal advised Ms E that she needed to explore the possiblity of medical retirement. (94)(101)

 

On 11 September 2008 Ms E went to see her GP Dr P. (153)

He gave her a certificate (needed for Healthquest) that set out all of her medical conditions.

Ms E says she gave the certificate to the principal's secretary because the principal was not available.

She heard nothing for the next two or three weeks. 


The principal told the  Workers Compensation Commission that Ms E gave him the GP's medical report.

The medical report said that she suffered from depression which would affect her capacity to deal with the stress of teaching.(102)(153) 

The Badapplebullies editor says : it seems to me that a key question here is WHEN did the depression begin?

If the depression began AFTER Ms E began teaching, then surely her employers can be held responsible for not providing a safe working environment?

The principal told the Workers Compensation Commission that he sent to medical report to Relieving Staff Support Officer Mr H so Ms E could be assessed by HealthQuest on her fitness to continue to work as a teacher.

This was confirmed by Mr H. (102)(129)

In his letter to Mr H, the principal listed Ms E's health problems (as described by her doctor) in some detail.(146)

It does seem to be inappropriate that the principal had access to this very personal health  information.  

 

Staff Support Officer Mr H told the Principal that, in view of Ms E's medical condition, he could not now place her on a formal TIP.(130) 

Mr H discussed Ms E's work location and duties with Ms P and the principal, while they were waiting to refer her to HealthQuest.  

It was decided not to remove Ms E from the school, but for her to remain at the school and finish her marking. (130)

22 September 2008 : Ms E is called to another meeting with the school principal.

On Monday 22 September 2008 the principal, Head Science Teacher Mrs W, Relieving Staff Support Officer Mr H, Staff Support Officer Mr C and Teachers Federation Representative Ms B met Ms E.

The principal told Ms E that she was going to be taken off her classes in view of her medical report.

She would be referred to Healthquest to assess her ability to continue as a teacher and, if so, if she would be fit to undergo a TIP program.

She would be placed on suitable duties approved by the Regional director.

She was now required to complete all marking and reports and not to have contact with students.(36)(104)(131, 132)


Relieving Staff Support Officer Mr H and Staff Support Officer Mr C met separately with Ms E.

Mr H gave her the contact details of the Employee Assistance Program. (133)

 

Ms E asks : Who had decided that she was unfit to teach?

She felt that it was bad timing because her year 10 class was just preparing for their School Certificate. 

 

To the end of Term 3 2008 Ms E sat in the "top prep" room and completed her marking and her reports. (38) 

October to early November 2008, Ms E did marking for a few hours each day.

Ms E returned to work in Term 4 of 2008.

GP Dr P, had told her to go to school every day, but only for half days because of her stress levels.

Ms E did marking.

That continued from October 2008 to early November 2008. 

On 22 October 2008 Ms E contacted Relieving Staff Support Officer Mr H.

Ms E was concerned about the length of time taken for the HealthQuest referral and the whole process with the TIP.

Ms E told Mr H she was finding it stressful to be in the school but not allowed to deal with her students. (134)

 

22 October 2008 : Clinical psychologist Ms M's report. 

On 22 October 2008, clinical psychologist Ms M reported that Ms E thought the TIP was going well.

Ms E told Ms M she was happy to learn and improve.(189)

A Year 7 girl had spat water. A Deputy Principal had refused to discipline the girl. Ms E was teary and had four days off work. 

Ms E had been taken off her class.

She was now doing marking and felt stressed.

She was waiting for a HealthQuest referral. (189)

 

3 November 2008 : Ms E was absent from work and claimed WorkCover for her absences.

On 3 November 2008 Ms E was absent from work.

Staff Support Officer Mr H rang Ms E at home and she again stated that she was stressed by the time that the HealthQuest referral was taking and by being at school without being allowed to teach.

Ms E told Mr H she would be claiming WorkCover for her absences.

Mr H told her that she needed to obtain medical certificates.(136)

 

In a WorkCover NSW medical certificate dated 3 November 2008, GP Dr P certified that Ms E was unfit for work from 29 October to 3 November 2008 and then fit for suitable duties - three hours a day, five hours a week - from 4 November to 24 November. 

GP Dr P noted that Ms E had a depressed mood and was tearful and was hence unable to teach.(154)  

5 November 2008 : Ms E refused to sign an authority to speak to her doctor.

Ms E says that her detailed medical report was meant to go to Healthquest only for use in their assessment but the medical report was allegedly read by both the principal and the area office staff.

Mrs E says the principal had sent an email detailing all Ms E's medical conditions with his opinion that they would affect her ability to work as a teacher.

The principal told the Workers Compensation Commission that, following a request by Mr H, the Staff Welfare Officer, he had asked Ms E to sign an authority for Mr H to speak to her doctor regarding her health and suitable duties.

Ms E refused to sign this authority. 

The Badapplebullies editor says : Ms E should have told the principal that she was going to ring the NSW Teachers Federation to ask for legal advice on how to respond to this request.  

 

On 5th November 2008, Ms E was called to a meeting with Relieving Staff Support Officer Mr H and Staff Support Officer Ms P.

Staff Support Officer Ms P advised Ms H to write everything down.(70)

The Badapplebullies editor says : this was REALLY good advice.  

Mr H asked Ms E if she had any medical certificates for her absences.

Ms E said that she did not. She spoke about the delays, etc. (137)  

Ms P asked Ms H on what grounds her doctor had decided that she should only attend school for three hours each day.(67)

Ms P explained that a Return to Work plan needed to be developed and that they needed to speak to her doctor about her fitness for work and general wellbeing. (137)(141)

Ms E was asked to sign the authority to speak to her doctor.

Ms E refused to sign the authority. (137)

Relieving Staff Welfare  Officer Mr H says Ms E became agitated, angry and hostile. (137)

Ms P then asked Ms E to leave the school because, based on the medical evidence available to them at that time, she was not fit to remain. (108)(137)(142)

Staff Welfare Officer Ms P told the Workers Compensation commission that Ms E folded her arms and stared at her for a few seconds and then said "no". (142)

Ms P then told Ms E that she was directing her to go home.(142)

Relieving Staff Welfare Officer Mr H told the Workers Compensation Commission that Ms P remained calm during the discussion. She did not become angry or hostile.(138)

(Ms E alleges that the Education Department were in a "flap" because they had realised that they had breached several privacy acts regarding the keeping and access to sensitive medical information.)

Ms E wanted to seek the advice of her GP before signing the form.

Ms E left the meeting.

Ms E felt that Ms P was hostile and she did not want to sign a medical release so that Miss P would have access to her personal information.(70) 

Ms E went to talk to the principal.

She was very upset.

The principal advised her to go home, consult her doctor and then ring him later in the day to let him know how she was feeling.(108) 

Ms E did agree to sign the form.

Staff Support Officer Ms P told the Workers Compensation Commission that Staff Support Officer Mr H told her that Ms H had signed the authority for contact to be made with her doctor, but she had included a comment "Not for Ms P's eyes or ears". (144)

Ms E says that she was still escorted from the school at 11.30am. (43) 

Ms E seems to have told clinical psychologist Ms M that she had been escorted from the school by Staff Support Officer Ms P. (189)

The principal says that his secretary helped Ms E to carry her bags to her car. (108)

... hmmmm

12 November 2008 Ms E returned to work.

On 11 November Relieving Staff Support Officer Mr H noted that he had attended a case conference with Ms E's GP, Dr P and Ms E.

They discussed the problems Ms E was having working with the restrictions placed on her by Dr P.

The school was also having difficulty coping with Ms E coming and going at different times and sometimes not coming in to work.

It was agreed that Ms E would start work at 8.30am and finish at 11.30am and that she would complete the marking for Years 7-10.

Mr H noted that Dr P believed it was better for Ms E to be at work than at home, but was certain that she was not currently fit to teach.(150)

Mr H then prepared the Return To Work plan for Ms E. (139)

 

On 12 November 2008 Ms E Returned To Work on suitable duties for three hours a day, five days a week.(139)

 

On 24 November 2008 the principal (told the Workers Compensation Commission that he) spoke to Ms E because she was not completing the required tasks and she was often late or was absent. (109,110) 

 

25 November 2008 : GP Dr P reports.

GP Dr P signed a WorkCover NSW medical certificate.

Dr P made a diagnosis of depression and expressed the view that employment was a substantial contributing factor to the injury.

Dr P certified that Ms E was fit for suitable duties - three hours a day, five days a week - from 28 November 2008 to 12 December 2008. (155) 

27 November 2008 : Treating psychiatrist Dr S reports.

Dr S, treating psychiatrist, stated that he had reviewed Ms E and confirmed that she was experiencing anxiety symptoms and was unfit to attend work or perform any school related duties.

Dr S expected the situation to continue for at least one month.(156)

Dr S expressed the view that Ms E should not travel to the city for a HealthQuest appointment the following week.

He suggested that the appointment with HealthQuest be postponed until Ms E was fit to attend.

Dr S expressed the opinion that Ms E would make a full recovery in due course.(157)


The Workers Compensation Commission comments :

Dr S made no reference to alleged bullying and harassment in the workplace. (207) 

 

Ms E ceased duty on 26 November and remained off duty for the rest of 2008 as she was unfit for work. (110) 

Early December 2008 : Ms E's psychiatrist increased her anti-depressant medication.

Ms E had been taking anti-depressant medication "on and off" since the early 1980's because of work-related stress. 

In early December 2008 Dr S, her psychiatrist, increased her medication. (54)

 

 

Staff Welfare Officer Mr H was contacted by Mr Carter from the NSW Teachers Federation during December 2008. 

Mr Carter asked why Ms E had not been paid her full pay during November 2008.(139) 

Ms E had exhausted her sick leave.  

9 December 2008 : clinical psychologist Ms M reports.

Clinical psychologist Ms M noted that on Ms E felt that decisions were being made about her without her being provided with information or copies of documents.

She said she had to ask the Principal repeatedly for copies of these documents and this added to her stress.

Ms E felt there was a hidden agenda. (189) 

18 December 2008: Consultant psychiatrist Dr G's first report.

Dr G, consultant psychiatrist, noted Ms E's comments on her situation.

Ms E told Dr G she was pleased that the Head Science teacher "had to help" her because of the TIP. (158)

(Dr G may not have realised that one of Ms E's complaints had been that Head Science Teacher Mrs W would not support her.)

Ms E told Dr G she was finding it difficult to cope with the fact that a casual teacher had taken over her own teaching responsibilities and her classes.

Dr G made a diagnosis of adjustment disorder with depressed mood and possible mild major depression.

Dr G noted there were possible histrionic personality traits.

Dr G considered the death of Ms E's mother to have been a stressor.(159)

Dr G noted that loss of Ms E's mother would probably have precipitated the TIP.(161)

In addition, the diagnosis of Type 11 diabetes suggested that Ms E may not have been particularly well for "some time prior to this".(159)

Dr G expressed the opinion that Ms E became significantly depressed when she was put on the TIP.

Dr G expressed the opinion that the manner in which Ms E was removed from her duties had contributed to her symptoms. (161)

30 January 2009 : Dr S, the HealthQuest medical practitioner, reports.

Dr S, the HealthQuest medical practitioner, expressed the opinion that Ms E appeared to have made a positive recovery.

She impressed Dr S as being highly motivated to return to work and was willing to complete the TIP.

Dr S thought that Ms E's medical conditions were well controlled and did not impact on her work ability. (164)

Dr S concluded that Ms E was fit for the full range of duties of a classroom teacher and was fit to participate in a TIP. (111, 140, 165)

 

On 9 February Relieving Staff Welfare Officer Mr H received a final WorkCover medical certificate from Dr S, showing that Ms E was fit for suitable duties. (140)

 

The principal told the Workers Compensation Commission that Ms E returned to her normal duties on 9 February 2009. (111)

24 February 2009 : clinical psychologist Ms M reports.

Ms E told Ms M she had been having lots of little anxiety attacks since Staff Support Officer Ms P had escorted her from the school. 

Ms E told Ms M she believed that she was being set up to fail her TIP. (189)

 

The Workers Compensation Commission comments :

Ms M's report makes no reference to alleged bullying and harassment in the workplace apart from Ms E wanting an apology for being escorted from the school and one reference to the principal advising her that her dress was not appropriate for work. (215)

Late February 2009 : Ms E was put on another informal support program.

The principal told the Workers Compensation Commission that, based on advice from Mr H, the Staff Welfare Officer and EPAC (Employee performance and Conduct) he implemented another informal support program in late February 2009. (111)

The informal support program was managed by Deputy Principal Ms W and support was provided by Head Science Teacher Mrs W and Mr L (it is not clear who Mr L is).

Ms W advised him that there were still concerns regarding lesson preparation and delivery, classroom marking and reports.

Were reports being written in February?

This seems a bit odd.

And why were there still concerns regarding lesson preparation if Head Science Teacher Mrs W had been supporting Ms E with lesson preparation?

Surely it would be part of Mrs W's support role to make sure Ms E's lessons were properly prepared?

There were also complaints about the applicant from parents. (111)

I presume that -

a) documentary evidence of these complaints was provided to the  Workers Compensation Commission 

b) and that Ms E was given an opportunity to seek legal advice from her union before she responded to these complaints.

16 March 2009 : An interim report on the support program.

The interim report on Ms E's support program was signed by the principal, Deputy Principal Ms W and Ms E.

The interim report noted -

There had been improvements in daily lesson planning, some classroom management strategies, contact with parents by phone and recording discipline incidents on profiler.

Areas still needing development were lesson planning ...

Hadn't Head Science Teacher Mrs W been supporting Ms E on lesson planning? 

... focusing more closely on unit outcomes, using a wider range of teaching strategies, practical activities, following time allocation, communicating lesson goals to class, implementing classroom rules consistently and proactive management strategies to prevent behavioural problems. (152)

11 May 2009 : Ms E was told she had failed her Pre-Improvement process again.

On 11 May the principal, Deputy Principal Ms W and Senior Science Teacher Mrs W met with Ms E. (112)

Notice that Ms E had no support person at this meeting. 

Ms E was told that she had failed her Pre-Improvement process again.

Ms E told the principal that she had been under stress for eleven months.

She would not be able to survive financially if she had to retire.

She felt that her life was being destroyed.

Ms E refused to sign the minutes of the evaluation of the Informal Support Program.

 

The principal told the Workers compensation Commission that Ms E "kept yelling at me throughout the meeting, stating that she would not go onto an improvement program. ... I observed her outside my window a minute later and she appeared to be talking to herself and appeared quite agitated."(113)

This is like spraying a cockroach with pesticide and then watching and making notes as the cockroach spins and flips about in its dying agony.

The principal was putting Ms E under great stress.

How did he expect her to behave? 

The principal told the Workers Compensation Commission that Ms E complained about the delay in starting the informal support process. he explained that EPAC had required her to be given a one-week settling-in period, then a two-week period of pre-injury duties, then a meeting about concerns, then a three week period of support.

Other delays had been caused by work problems and leave.

He told Ms E he was waiting for the formal program to be finalised by EPAC and in the meantime she would continue to be supported.(114) 

You have to wonder how good these "supporters" were as teachers themselves if all their "support" made so little difference. 

22 September 2009 : Ms E made a formal complaint of harassment.

Ms E told the Workers Compensation Commission that there had been a long-term bullying problem at the school with one young, first-year-out male science teacher.

First he had bullied another young male teacher, then after a while he began to bully Ms E.

He would -

a) push objects off a shelf onto her desk

b) say negative things about her

c) move the tables close to the wall so she could not get out of her chair. 

d) move her papers and food from place to place without her permission. (182, 226, 227)

 

Ms E told the Workers Compensation Commission that Head Science Teacher Mrs W clearly knew what was happening between the young male teacher and herself but all she did was raise her eyebrows and take no action at all.

After "quite a few years", Ms E had made a formal complaint to the principal about this alleged workplace bullying in 2009.

 

Ms E made formal complaints of harassment by the young male teacher Mr B on 22 September 2009, 1 October 2009 and 11 November 2009.

 

Ms E told the Workers Compensation Commission that the principal seemed to have considered both teachers to be at fault "and both (the young male teacher) and I were told in no uncertain terms that if there was any more of this nonsense we would both be transferred.

Minutes of this meeting were taken by (the principal's secretary who was also) ... the mother of (the young male teacher's) partner, and they were changed when typed up, to leave out the part about being transferred."(58, 59) 

 

The principal told the Workers Compensation Commission that he did not recall receiving this official complaint from Ms E concerning workplace bullying by a young male teacher.(115)

Hmmmm ... This seems very odd. 

 

Head Science Teacher Mrs W was able to remember Ms E's formal complaint to the principal about the young male teacher's behaviour. 

Mrs W said the behaviour was not workplace bullying, it was banter and joking.

Mrs W remembered Ms E making a formal complaint about something being moved out of the staff room freezer.

She was aware that the principal had investigated the situation. (126)

 

The Workers Compensation Commission comments :

The conduct complained of and described by Ms E as harassment and bullying was merely a series of minor and insignificant events that would not, in my view, amount to conduct that could be categorised as harassment or bullying.(229)

 

January 2010 : Ms E tripped at work.

On Friday 29th January 2010 at about 11.40am Ms E had an accident at work which resulted in an occipital haematoma.

The occipital haematoma led to the development of visual defects, which affected Ms E's reasoning capacity and ability to concentrate. (171) 

The accident occurred when Ms E was handing out sheets of paper in a very crowded school theatre.

Ms E tripped on a student's foot  and fell, landing heavily on her chest and then hitting the right side of her head hard on the floor.(75)

She developed what seemed to be a headache and went home from school at 3.05pm. 

Over the weekend the headache got worse.

On Monday 1 February 2010 Ms E  went to see her GP, Dr P. he told her to take a painkiller.

The headache got even worse.

On Tuesday 2nd February 2010 Ms E phoned Dr P.

The headache was unbearable and she was experiencing other distressing symptoms.

Dr P told Ms E to ring an ambulance.

Ms E was taken to Hawkesbury Hospital.

On 3rd February 2010 Ms E had a CT scan.

Then she was taken by ambulance to Nepean Hospital. 

On 4th February Ms E had another CT scan of her head.

On 7th February Ms E had another CT scan of her head.

On 9th February 2010 Ms E attended the eye clinic at Westmead and HVF testing confirmed that she had a Right Homonymous Hemanopia.

On 10 February 2010 Ms E was discharged from Westmead Hospital.

She went to stay with her son.

She was not able to care for herself.

She could not read to her grandson.

She did not know exactly what damage had been done to her brain. 

On 15 March 2010 Ms E had a Treating Doctor Conference with REGAIN and Dr P.

Dr P allegedly advised Ms E that it would be over 12 months before she could return to her pre-injury duties because of her head injuries.

Ms E understood that she would receive a graded return to work.

But the principal allegedly advised her "either you come back full-time as a senior teacher or not at all."

Ms E was (and then was not) 'Returned To Work'.

On 16 April 2010 Ms E visited Vision Australia and saw Mr D for a Low Vision Assessment.

He recommended that she get prescription glasses.

Mr D did not assess that Ms E's reading problem was related  to her brain injury.

 

On 10 May 2010 Ms E saw Prof M and had a full computerised perimetry test at Westmead Hospital.

 

On 11 May 2010 Ms E attended another Treating Doctor Conference with Dr P and REGAIN.

Dr P confirmed that Ms E still had visual defects.

Ms E told Dr P and REGAIN that she still had a reading problem.

 

On 16th May 2010 Ms E was cleared to work full-time as a teacher.

And so she was back on the Teacher Improvement Program

 

On 25 May 2010 Ms E says that Dr S, psychiatrist, allegedly advised that she should never return to the High School where she had been working. 

 

On 13 July 2010 Ms E says that REGAIN issued a Progress Report in which her reading difficulties were identified as a barrier to her return to pre-injury duties. 

 

Dr R noted that Ms E was unable to work after August 2010 due to ongoing reading problems.  (173)

 

The principal told the Workers Compensation Commission that Ms E had never reported to him that she had a reading problem. (120) 

1 September 2010 : Ms E fails her TIP.

On 1 September 2010 Ms E was told she had failed her TIP. (78)

She decided to apply for special sick leave. 

 

On 8 December  2010 Ms E saw Dr W at Westmead Hospital Brain Injury Unit.

 

On 22 December 2010 Ms E saw Mr F, psychologist, at the request of GIO (Workers Compensation).

Ms E alleges that Mr F's GIO report "contains a lot of errors."

Ms E disagrees with much of Mr F's GIO report.

2011 : Ms E returned to work.

Ms E returned to work in 2011 and was told to work in the library.

Then she was sent to the Penrith District Office to work on marking and then to complete a supporting statement, explaining why she should be retained as a teacher. (80)

She was told not to talk to any of the other teachers in the room, because they were all doing the same thing. 

It was very difficult for Ms E  to complete this reading and typing task because of her reading problem.

Her supporting statement was declined. 

5 October 2011 : Rehabilitation Specialist at Brain Injury Unit Dr M reports.

Dr M, Rehabilitation Specialist at Brain Injury Unit Westmead, allegedly recorded that Ms E had "returned to work but had trouble reading and understanding words in a passage, memory problems and organising problems.

7 November 2011 : Dr S advised Ms E that her reading problem was directly related to the brain injury she suffered when she tripped and fell at work.

Ms E saw Dr S at Annandale Eye Care and advised her that her reading problem was directly related to the haematoma that had resulted from her fall at work. (83)

 

Ms E allegedly then emailed Ms Linda Watts at the Department of  Education and Communities to explain the reason for her reading problem.

 

 

9 November 2011: Ms E was handed a Dismissal Notice.

Ms E allegedly met Ms Linda Watts and Karen Mulloso from the Department of Education and Communities in the Penrith Office.

A Dismissal Notice was read out to her. (83) 

Ms E allegedly asked Ms Watts if she had received her 7 November email. 

Ms Watts allegedly replied that she had received the email but was not taking any action.

 

On 10 November 2011 Ms E was allegedly officially dismissed from the Department of Education and Communities on Disciplinary Grounds because she was unable to supply supporting evidence why she should be retained as a teacher.

 

On about 15 November 2011 Ms E received a letter from the Department of Education and Communities asking her to supply evidence why she should not be placed on a list of dismissed teachers.

This would prevent Ms E from volunteering at her grandchildren's school - her one source of enjoyment at that time.

For the next three days Ms E stayed in bed, crying.

 

For most of 2012 Ms E stayed at home alone.

March 2014 : Consultant psychiatrist Dr R reports.

On 4 November 2013 Consultant psychiatrist Dr R evaluated Ms E for the first time.

On 3 March 2014 Dr R evaluated Ms E for the second time. 

Dr R stated Ms E had been experiencing episodic anxiety and depression over the past two decades in the context of work related bullying and harassment by different colleagues.

Ms E had been treated with medications for years and despite short relapses she had functioned well episodically as a senior science teacher. (167)

Ms E complained that the Principal "barraged" her with inappropriate comments and displayed intimidating behaviour.

Being taken off her classes had astonished Ms E and she felt victimised and hopeless. (168)

During 2009 Ms E told Dr R she was being continuously verbally harassed by the Principal and Head Science Teacher Mrs W.

Ms E said she experienced acute periods of anxiety in the background of chronic anxiety and ruminations. (170) 

Dr R expressed the view that the chronic victimisation and perceived bullying at work had definitely contributed to her psychological decline and stress, which had been exacerbated by repeated trauma "in organisation".(171) 

Dr R noted that the fall on 29 January 2010 at work had resulted in an occipital haematoma.

Ms E had developed visual defects, which started affecting her reasoning capacity and ability to concentrate. (171)

Since being dismissed on disciplinary grounds, Dr R noted that Ms E had been emotionally labile with poor sleep patterns, decreased concentration and motivation, poor self-care and functional decline. (173) 

Dr R made a diagnosis of chronic adjustment disorder with depressed mood and generalised anxiety disorder characterised by depressed mood and anxious preoccupying thoughts that impacted her sleep, concentration and motivation.

Ms E had feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness.

Dr R made an assessment of 23 per cent whole person impairment.

He noted that although Ms E had a pre-existing condition she had functioned well with no impairment and made no deduction from the assessment for a pre-existing condition.(174) 

Dr R concluded that Ms E's depression preceding her physical injury was due to bullying and harassment occurring a) chronically from 2008 on and b) following the injury when he believed a Return To Work program in a supportive environment would have helped with recovery and changed her prognosis. (175)

 

The Workers compensattion Commission comments : 

The conclusions in Dr R's report are really dependent upon the extent to which the applicant's history of what had occurred was correct. (209)

21 July 2015 : Ms E applied for Workers Compensation.

Ms E applied for Workers Compensation because of a psychiatric injury caused by workplace bullying. (2)

19 October 2015 : clinical psychologist Dr M's report.

Dr M, clinical psychologist, noted Ms E's description of events. (182, 183)

Dr M reported that objective cognitive screening revealed some decline from high average functioning on timed tasks requiring close attention to visual detail, but no impaired range scores.

Dr M expressed the opinion that the events from January to August 2008 had likely aggravated Ms E's underlying major depressive disorder. (184) 

"This occurs on the background of an unusual personality structure, most likely of the schizotypal type or possible autistic spectrum disorder."(185)

Dr M considered the specific events which had contributed to the development of the psychological injury included the TIP and the perception of being "bullied and harassed" by the male teacher. 

It may be that Ms E had construed innocuous events as personal attacks.

Ms E reported that she felt unsupported by the Principal. (186) 

Dr M concluded that employment was a substantial contributing factor to the aggravation of Ms E's major depressive disorder. (188)

20 October 2015 : Consultant Psychiatrist Dr G's second report.

On 20 October Consultant Psychiatrist Dr G noted he had reviewed Ms E and material provided by her solicitor.

Dr G was of the view that he would not currently diagnose Ms E as having an ongoing psychiatric disorder.(176)

He considered that the indications from the neuropsychologist suggested Ms E would have difficulty a) with reading due to the fact her reading was much slower b) with comprehension of visual material and c) with multitasking and controlling a classroom.

Ms E told Dr G she was unable to complete the TIP and the loss of her teaching career had been devastating. (177)

Dr G believed that the death of her mother followed by, probably, four months of uncontrolled diabetes with high blood sugars,  had contributed to Ms E's poor performance during the first part of 2008, but he noted the Principal had indicated there had been complaints with respect to her performance over an eight year period.(178)

This really bothers me - in truth, there seem to have been so few complaints over the eight years - and yet these few complaints are influencing this doctor's conclusions.

Is this fair?

Dr G concluded that Ms E's employment had not been a substantial contributing factor to the development of any psychological condition.

His view was that the uncontrolled diabetes had been central to her inability to perform effectively, and that put in train the series of events related to her TIP.

Surely this raises the question - why was a person newly-diagnosed with diabetes put on a TIP? 

Dr G noted that in early 2010, her mental state was further impacted by the intracerebral haemorrhage. (179)

Dr G concluded that Ms E's employer acted reasonably.  

Dr G concluded that Ms E's having to attend the HealthQuest and then her teaching responsibilities in 2009 (and the TIP stress) and then not being able to work after the accident in 2010 had all contributed to an adjustment disorder at that time. (180)

Dr G made an assessment of six per cent whole person impairment. (181)

24 February 2016 : Consultant Psychiatrist Dr G's third report.

Dr G, Consultant Psychiatrist, was of the view that he would not diagnose Ms E with an ongoing functional psychiatric disorder. She appeared to him to have elements suggestive of a mild neurocognitive disorder. There also appeared to be elements of an underlying mixed personality disorder. (190)

Dr G did not believe that any psychiatric disorder with which she presented would necessarily relate to her work circumstances.

Dr G referred to the report of Dr M and noted that Dr M, after neuropsychological testing, expressed the opinion that, in 2008, Ms E had likely suffered an aggravation of her underlying major depressive disorder. 

Dr G felt that his impressions of Ms E were similar to those of Dr M.(192)

Dr G concluded that Ms E had not suffered a psychiatric disorder within the meaning of section 11A(3) of the 1987 Act.

He did not consider that she had sustained a psychological injury caused by her employment between January 2008 and 29 November 2011. (193) 

Dr George concluded, refering to unidentified file material, that there had been ongoing performance issues with the applicant's teaching from at least 2002 onwards, if not earlier. 

This doctor does not seem to realise how few complaints seem to have actually been made about Ms E.

His conclusions seem to be based on misinformation and a lack of understanding of a teacher's working environment. 

Dr G made no reference in any of his reports to alleged bullying and harassment in the workplace. (205) 

 He considered that the actions taken by the principal were quite reasonable.(194)

The Workers' Compensation Commission comments :  

"The reasoning for the changes in Dr G's opinions between the initial and subsequent reports was difficult to follow and he did not really adequately explain why having concluded that work had been a contributing factor to her condition in his initial report he then changed his opinion". (204)

 

3 May 2016 : the Workers Compensation Commission dismissed Ms E's application for compensation.

Ms E took the NSW Department of Education to the Workers Compensation Commission.

She argued that the consensus between the doctors was that she had suffered a psychological injury and there was a causal link between her work and her psychological condition.(197)

The NSW Department of Education argued that Ms E's psychological condition resulted from the death of her mother in December 2007 and the onset of her diabetes in 2008.(196)

 

The Workers Compensation Commission observed:

The evidence from Head Science Teacher Mrs W and Deputy Principal W and the Principal established that there were problems with the applicant's performance for many years (but was this really true?) and I do not accept that the death of the applicant's mother and the problems she had with her diabetes were the cause of her psychological condition.(204)

It appears that the applicant was provided over the years with a considerable level of support by a number of staff at the school.

I do not consider that the senior staff at the school failed to provide the applicant with adequate support. (230)

But all of their "support" failed ... they said themselves. 

However ... I am satisfied that Ms E had an aggravation of a pre-existing condition, namely, an adjustment disorder with depressed mood. In my view, the weight of the medical evidence supports a finding that Ms E sustained a psychological injury, namely an aggravation of a pre-existing condition, arising out of or in the course of her employment between January 2008 and 29 November 2011. (241)

The Workers Compensation Commission then asked:

Was Ms E's employment a substantial contributing factor to her injury within section 9A of the 1987 Act?

I am satisfied that the contribution of the applicant's employment to her injury was real and of substance. (251a)

On balance I am satisfied that the nature of her work and particular taks of that work played a real role in causing the applicant's injury. (251b)

On balance I am not persuaded that Ms E's state of health before the injury was relevant to this claim.

She had a long history of depression but it was reasonably well controlled and she appeared to function reasonably well until mid to late 2008.

In my view it was the work related events, namely, the disciplinary problems with her students, the pre-improvement program in 2008, etc. that caused incapacity and resulted in the need for treatment.

There was no family history of psychiatric disorder, or other hereditary risk factors. (251e)

I am satisfied that Ms E's employment was a substantial contributing factor within the meaning of section 9A of the 1987 Act. (252)

I have found that the applicant's psychological injury was an aggravation of a pre-existing condition.

In these circumstances I consider it prudent to determine whether employment was the main contributing factor to the injury to the cervical spine. (253)

This is a bit of a mystery.

There has been no previous mention of an injury to Ms E's cervical spine. 

I am satisfied on the evidence that employment was the main contributing factor to the aggravation, accelleration, exacerbation or deterioration of a disease, namely pre-existing depression.

Now we seem to be back to the depression being the injury.

The Workers Compensation Commission then said :

The next matter to determine is whether any psychological injury was wholly or predominantly caused by reasonable action. 

Section 1A(1) provides :

"No compensation is payable under this Act in respect of an injury that is a psychological injury if the injury is wholly or predominantly caused by reasonable action taken" by the employer. (263) 

I was not satisfied on the evidence that there was a lack of support, nor that there was bullying of the applicant by the Principal, Deputy principal Ms W, Head Science Teacher Mrs W or Staff Support Officer Mrs P.(282)

On balance I am satisfied that the predominant cause of Ms E's psychological injury was the actions taken by the respondent in respect of performance appraisal and dismissal. (285)

The next matter to determine is whether the Department's actions with respect to performance appraisal and dismissal were reasonable. (286)

During the TIP process -

The school processes for dealing with poorly behaved students seemed to be failing.

Deputy Principal Mrs W was slow to provide class observation notes as promised (293) 

Mr C did not seem to complete his class observations. (293)

Head Science Teacher Mrs W's support in planning and developing units of work seems to have been a dismal failure.

And Mrs W also seems to have failed to allow Ms E to observe her own classes. 

But only Ms E failed the TIP!

Is this reasonable?  

In all relevant aspects I am satisfied that the Department's actions were reasonable. 

Ms E had demonstrated over many years difficulties in meeting the required level of performance as a teacher.


But is this true? 

Were these complaints real? I know from searching through my own documents under Freedom Of Information that it is very easy to falsify "records" of complaints concerning a teacher and to place them secretly on the teacher's file.

And can the Department prove that there were more documented complaints concerning Ms E than would be found on the file of any NSW teacher? 

Placing Ms E on the pre-improvement plans and then eventually on the formal improvement plan was appropriate and fair. (311)

The cause of Ms E's psychiatric disability is entirely due to events falling within section 11A.(313)

I find that on the evidence overall the Department's actions were reasonable. (314)

 

And Ms E had lost the case :

http://www.wcc.nsw.gov.au/Decisions/Decisions/4197-15%20Edwards%20COD%20SOR.pdf  

 

 

Ms E's carer began a webpage to support NSW teachers who are injured at work: 

https://www.facebook.com/Injured-NSW-Teachers-while-Working-for-DEC-or-DET-459081924160029/

 

Concerns?

The information on this page is (mostly) already in the public domain.

If you feel that the information is not correct, or if you feel that your own story has not been properly represented, please contact dealingwiththemob@badapplebullies.com

 

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