Bad Apple Bullies

Bad Apple Bully school principals and departmental officers can bully Australian teachers into ill health - and out of work!

2000 : Werribee Secondary College divided its years 8, 9 and 10 classes.

In 2000, Werribee Secondary College divided its years 8, 9 and 10 classes into five streams - accelerated, high achievers, medium achievers, low achievers and foundation.


Former teacher Peter Doulis awarded damages over 'unruly' students, Jane Lee and Jewel Topsfield, The Age, 5 September 2014

Werribee teacher Peter Doulis met with principal Steve Butyn.

Werribee teacher Peter Doulis met principal Steve Butyn and assistant principals W. H. and G. L. in September 2003.

Mr Doulis told them he was having difficulties with his workload of bottom stream classes.

The students had a propensity for violence.

One had made a flamethrower in class.

Another had punched a fellow student in the mouth.

Some had ADHD, Asperger's syndrome and dyslexia.


Former teacher Peter Doulis awarded damages over 'unruly' students, Jane Lee and Jewel Topsfield, The Age, 5 September 2014

Teacher Peter Doulis wins $1.3m payout after unruly students drive him to the brink, Emily Portelli, The Herald Sun, 16 September 2014

28 April 2005 : Werribee Secondary College Humanities teacher Paul Unsworth became depressed. He believed that principal Steve Butyn considered him to be 'dead wood'.

In 2005 Werribee Secondary College Humanities teacher Paul Unsworth became depressed and angry during a review of his role as an expert teacher.

He believed Werribee principal Steve Butyn considered him to be 'dead wood' and wanted to get rid of him.


Mr Unsworth said he was stopped from making email contact with the school and an investigation into his review was launched by the Education Department's western region.

"I felt completely ostracised from the workplace by not being able to communicate with the school," he said.


An email from western region director Brett New that was accidentally sent to Mr Unsworth and two other teachers offered full support for Mr Butyn's disciplinary actions, Mr Unsworth said.

"My perception was that I had no chance of getting a fair hearing," Mr Unsworth said.


In June 2007 Mr Unsworth ceased working at the school.


On 27 April 2009 Mr Unsworth told Melbourne Magistrates' Court he had been bullied and harassed by principal Steve Butyn and other senior staff of Werribee Secondary College over three years.

Mr Unsworth told the court that two other teachers also had WorkCover claims against Werribee Secondary College over similar issues.

Mr Unsworth, who made several failed compensation claims against the school, said he was the victim of "a culture of punishment and retribution for speaking up".


Under cross-examination by Clyde Miles, for the Victorian Education Department, Mr Unsworth told the court that he had been taking anti-depressants since 1998.

Mr Miles said Mr Unsworth had failed to comply with a request to accurately and sufficiently document the good things about his teaching.


Editor's Note : I presume this request was made by a psychologist employed by the Victorian Education Department.

The Queensland Education Department also seem to employ psychologists to treat workplace bullying in schools by trying to make the teachers 'think positively' about the workplace bullying. :


Mr Unsworth was still employed by Werribee Secondary College, although he has not worked there since June, 2007.

Mr Unsworth was seeking weekly payments from the Education Department as part of a WorkCover claim.


Paul Unsworth received a $140,000 payment.
The court found that his depression was aggravated during the performance reviews at the college.


Teacher sues over bullying claims , John Masanauskas, The Herald Sun, 28 April 2009 :

Teachers sue over bullying, Evonne Barry, The Sunday Herald Sun,  27 December 2009 :

27 December 2009 : Four more Werribee Secondary College teachers were taking legal action because of alleged workplace bullying and harassment.

In December 2009 four more teachers from Werribee Secondary College were taking legal action for what they claimed was psychological damage resulting from bullying and harassment by colleagues.

The teachers said they had hired lawyers and are expected to take their cases to court in 2010, with claims ranging from damages to loss of income - as a result of their employment at Werribee Secondary College.

The teachers have collectively spent several years on paid leave, accumulating hundreds of thousands of dollars in WorkCover payments.


Another former Werribee SC teacher has not taken legal action.

But she left the college "out of exasperation" several years ago and said she still suffered the consequences.

"I went to my new school very vulnerable, and I still have issues (because of my experiences)," she said.

This teacher, who is now working at another Victorian school, said WorkCover payments were an easy get-out clause for schools whose staff complained about bullying and favouritism.

"Who cares? They don't. It's a drop in the ocean and (the school) doesn't have to pay," she said.


One former Werribee SC teacher preparing for legal action, and who is on 75 per cent of her $45,000 wage while not working, said she fell into a "deep depression" after not being supported following a workplace injury.


A WorkSafe study shows two in five Victorian teachers report being victims of occupation bullying - double the state average.

39 per cent of staff in the education and training sector suffer intimidation or abuse.


Teachers sue over bullying, Evonne Barry, The Sunday Herald Sun,  27 December 2009 :

9 October 2013 : Werribee Secondary College Teacher Peter Doulis sues the Victorian government for negligence and failing to provide a safe workplace.

From 1998 to 2004, teacher Peter Doulis, 47, of West Yarraville, worked at Werribee Secondary College.

Mr Doulis claims he was intentionally allocated classes of Werribee Secondary College's ''most unruly and challenging'' students.

In 2013 Mr Doulis sued the Victorian government for negligence and failing to provide a safe workplace.

Representing Mr Doulis on the first day of the Supreme Court trial, John Richards, SC, said his once active and capable client was now a ''shell of a man'' who was unlikely to work again.

The court heard the students at Werribee Secondary College were divided up into five streams  - accelerated, high achievers, medium achievers, low achievers and foundation classes.

Mr Richards said while some teachers only taught bright students, Mr Doulis was assigned an unfair proportion of the worst achieving pupils of the year, including those with learning and behavioural difficulties.

He said those teachers who were allocated the worst classes were the ones who had got on the ''wrong side'' of the assistant principal in charge with managing the class timetable.

The jury was told Mr Doulis approached school leaders a number of times complaining that he was stressed and asked for fewer difficult classes, but his pleas fell on ''deaf ears''.

''He remembers being absolutely devastated when he saw that he was going to face those classes again.

''In the first time in his life he had thoughts of suicide,'' Mr Richards said.

The court was told of an incident where Mr Doulis was threatened by a student, who told him he was going to "get him" and made the sign of slitting his throat with his finger.

Mr Doulis says he suffered a major psychological breakdown after this incident. 

Mr Doulis also recalls being told, along with his students, to clean a dirty classroom following an asbestos fire.

He said the classroom had broken windows and asbestos warnings were still visible.


Mr Richards said his client was in a ''seriously suicidal'' state after quitting his job at Werribee.

He said a psychologist had diagnosed his client with a major depressive illness as a result of overwork and the father-of-two has shown signs of post-traumatic stress and agoraphobia (anxiety leaving the house).

Claims for past loss of earnings are estimated by Mr Doulis' legal team to be about $440,000, while he could be eligible for more than $1 million in future lost wages and superannuation.

Mr Doulis claims to have suffered further break downs when he attempted to return to work at different high schools as a teacher.

42 witnesses will be called, including psychiatrists, GPs, and western suburbs principals and teachers.

The trial is expected to last four weeks.


Teacher sues over difficult students,  Nick Toscano, Aisha Dow,  The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 October 2013

Werribee teacher sues over ‘unruly’ classes , Staff Reporter, Wyndham Weekly, 9 October 2013


14 October 2013 : teacher Peter Doulis claims he was 'paid back' for whistleblowing about problems at Werribee Secondary College.

Teacher Peter Doulis believes he was 'paid back' by being given difficult classes because several events had landed him on the "wrong side" of some of the Werribee Secondary College's senior staff who were in charge of timetabling.


 * He had raised the alarm after finding a large amount of pornography on the school's computer sever.

 * He had brought up safety concerns about a year 7 camp that had been organised by a year-level coordinator.

 * His relationship soured with soon-to-be assistant principal who had taken him to a topless bar for an after-work drink against his will.


After these events, Mr Doulis said, he felt hostility from the school's management and senior staff.

John Richards, SC, representing Mr Doulis, said Weribee's management had promised that staff would not be made to teach more than two of the low achievers and foundation classes each term, and that the load would be spread fairly.

But Mr Doulis had been assigned between three and six classes of the bottom two streams for four years.


Mr Doulis told the court his classes included students who had ADHD, autism, dyslexia and acquired brain injuries.

The majority of the other students were very badly behaved.

Many students fought each other, broke windows, wrote racist and sexual comments on the whiteboard, made threats towards Mr Doulis, and tore up detention notes in front of him.
They made flame-throwers out of aerosol cans and cracked classmates' heads open.

The classes were "very difficult to discipline, impossible to teach", Mr Doulis said.


The jury was told Mr Doulis approached school leaders several times complaining that he was stressed and asked for fewer difficult classes, but his pleas fell on "deaf ears"'.

Mr Doulis had been hospitalised three times due to severe "suicidal ideation".


Mr Doulis will be cross-examined by counsel representing the Victorian government, Jack Rush, QC, on Tuesday.


Ex-teacher allocated school's most unruly students, Nick Toscano, 14 October 2013 , Read more:

Wednesday 16 October 2013 : Jack Rush, QC, accuses Peter Doulis of exaggerating.


Mr Doulis alleges he was given the worst classes because he was being "ostracised, bullied and intimidated" by senior teachers who were treating him like a whistleblower after he reported finding hardcore pornography on the school's computer network.

Mr Doulis said he believed the pornography belonged to the two teachers, who were responsible for timetabling, and he soon became "ostracised, bullied and intimidated".


But Mr Rush said Mr Doulis had made a "mischievous representation" in his affidavit, which stated one of the assistant principals had gone unpunished after inappropriately touching a female year 9 student.

Mr Rush said Mr Doulis knew that the accusation had been disproved after the girl admitted lying.

"But the reason you said this was to besmirch the name of a witness who will differ from your version of events at Werribee Secondary College," Mr Rush said.


Mr Rush also said Mr Doulis had miscalculated the number of low-end classes he had been allocated, and referred to performance reviews that suggested he wanted to teach those classes.

Under cross examination, Mr Doulis said details of the number of classes he taught at Werribee were stored on a laptop computer, which he no longer owns.


Mr Rush told the court that Mr Doulis had suffered stress and anxiety long before the school introduced the student streaming system.

Mr Rush told the court that Mr Doulis had confided in a colleague that much of his stress and anxiety was due to a debilitating debt of $1.5 million in a trust fund shared with his two siblings.


But Mr Doulis said his mental state had reached crisis point after several pleas to senior teachers and the principal for a lighter load of the lowest-streamed classes fell on "deaf ears".

"For the first time in my life, I was considering suicide," Mr Doulis said. "I was planning it."

 "I planned to drive a car to Falls Creek mountain and drive the car off the side."


Mr Doulis had been hospitalised three times due to severe "suicidal ideation".


The trial before Justice Timothy Ginnane continues


Bullied ex-teacher accused of exaggerating, Nick Toscano, The Border Mail, 17 October 2013 :

Teacher blames depression on 'feral classes', staff writer, The Sunday Herald Sun,  16 October 2011

The Werribee Secondary College principal's side of the story.

Werribee Secondary College, Melbourne, introduced a "like-achievement" grouping model in 2000.

Under the system, students in years 8, 9 and 10 are divided into five streams: select entry, high achievers, medium achievers, low achievers and foundation.

Werribee Secondary is the only Victorian school to divide students into different classes for all subjects based on their academic performance.


Editor's Note : This sort of 'streaming' was very common when I was a student myself and when I was teaching in Sydney in the 70's and 80's.

I thought it worked well, much better than "mixed ability" classes. 


Principal Steve Butyn said the 'streaming" system allowed for smaller class sizes and enabled teachers to focus on struggling students.

He said the system had driven up student performance across the board and that the school's average ATAR scores and national literacy and numeracy rankings had soared since the model was brought in.

"Eight years ago our ATAR was approximately 48; now, last year it was just on 75," he said.


Editor's Note : So 'streaming' seems to have worked well for many of the Werribee students.

The problem for a principal is - should he mix low-achieving, poorly-behaved children in every class and allow them to disrupt the education of all of the other children?

Or should he put the low-achieving, poorly-behaved students in a class together and try to design a program that suits their needs?

In my experience, poorly-behaved children can do well in a "special needs" class if they have programs designed for their special needs and interests.

The special classes can give them an opportunity to catch up on the basics - to learn to read, for example.


Under cross-examination, Mr Butyn revealed there had been a spike in student suspensions between 2002 and 2004 following the introduction of the streaming model.

But he denied this was due to grouping together the worst-performing students, attributing the increase to a crackdown on bad behaviour.


At least four former Werribee teachers say they developed stress, anxiety and depression after being allocated too many low-achieving classes.

The teachers have taken stress leave, saying their classrooms were full of uncontrollable and disengaged students who egged on each other's bad behaviour.


Editor's Note : I would have expected the lower-level classes to be very small, to have specially-designed programs, and to be taught by teachers with some special training and interest in working with "special needs" children.


Former teacher Peter Doulis, 47, said he suffered a major mental breakdown after being forced to teach an "unfair" load of the school's low classes between 2000 and 2004.

Mr Doulis also told the court that his pleas to school management for fewer difficult classes were ignored.


Principal Steve Butyn said he did not recall having a meeting about the matter.


Other former teachers from the western suburbs school, Paul Unsworth and Ruby Eyiam, who are separately suing the government, told the court about the humiliation, hopelessness and "shell shock" they felt after teaching the low classes.

Ms Eyiam left the school on WorkCover after students in her low classes regularly swore at her, calling her a "slut", a "f---ing bitch" and a "skanky ho".

Like Mr Doulis, she said her allocation of the school's lowest classes steadily increased, while other teachers were not given any.


Principal Steve Butyn accused the teachers of exaggerating how difficult it was to teach the low classes, claiming their stress might have been the result of other issues.


"It's always something else apart from the bleeding obvious, isn't it?" said John Richards, SC, representing Mr Doulis.

"Why are you in denial that teaching classes of very difficult students causes stress?"

Mr Richards said the workload had turned his once active and capable client into a "shell of a man", who was fighting suicidal thoughts and was unlikely to work again.


Teachers claim burnout at streaming school, Nick Toscano, The Canberra Times, 29 October 2013  Read more:

The Judge's findings : Peter Doulis is awarded an estimated $1.2 million for pain, suffering, past lost wages and future economic loss.

Supreme Court judge Tim Ginnane found Werribee Secondary College had failed to minimise the risk posed to Peter Doulis and it was "reasonably forseeable" that he might suffer psychiatric injury because of his teaching allotment and that the state had owed him a duty to take care to avoid him from developing the condition.

Judge Ginnane ordered the state of Victoria pay Mr Doulis -

* $300,000 for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment in life, 

* $466,433 for past lost wages

* and about $500,000 for future economic loss.


The Findings in detail :


$750k for teaching "feral" students, Pia Akerman, p.3, The Weekend Australian, 6-7 September 2014

Former teacher Peter Doulis awarded damages over 'unruly' students, Jane Lee and Jewel Topsfield, The Age, 5 September 2014

Michael Magazanik, Slater and Gordon Lawyers : this is an important decision.

Solicitor Michael Magazanik from Slater and Gordon Lawyers - 

said Supreme Court Justice Timothy Ginnane's decision is important because it recognises that teachers who are really struggling had to be supported by their schools.

"We had plenty of calls from teachers during the trial and I suspect there are significant numbers of teachers in Peter Doulis's position," Mr Magazanik said.

"It will force a lot of principals and schools around the state to sit up and take notice because the judge made it quite clear that Werribee Secondary College completely failed Peter Doulis.

They knew his mental health was deteriorating and they did absolutely nothing for him.  

They just left him there to sink and he did and he has had to wear the appalling cost of that for 10 years now."

Michael Magazanik said Mr Doulis offered several years ago to settle the claim for a "small fraction" of the $1,279,751 awarded to him.

"But the department wouldn't deal with him.

They said he had no claim at all so we've had to push on for years after that," Mr Magazanik said outside court.

"Now the department will pay him close to "$1.3 million as well as a huge amount in legal costs to Peter's lawyers and their own lawyers - and for nothing when several years ago they could have settled this for a fraction of that."

Mr Magazanik said Mr Doulis was grateful for his legal win - which could be appealed within the next fortnight by the state government - but was focusing on fixing his mental health.


Mr Magazanik said he had been approached by other teachers from the school as a result of this case.


Former teacher Peter Doulis awarded damages over "unruly" students, Jane Lee and Jewel Topsfield, The Age, 5 September 2014.

Teacher Peter Doulis wins $1.3m payout after unruly students drive him to the brink, Emily Portelli, The Herald Sun, 16 September 2014

Tim Donaghey, employment lawyer and barrister : the Peter Doulis case will be a legal precedent. 

Employment lawyer and barrister Tim Donaghey also advises that there are significant implications from Peter Doulis's case.

"The implications of this case go to the question of negligence in a workplace environment and injuries flowing from that negligence, " Mr Donaghey said.

"Litigants who have been subject to severe pressure might now think of suing, and in a real sense, in a legal sense that we call the authority of a particular case to persuade a judge, this will be a legal precedent." 

"This will be something that employees consider in future when perhaps considering bullying claims ... they might then instead look to whether they have a demonstrable psychological injury, involving lack of sleep or loss of appetite or other symptoms that Mr Doulis presented, and then look to the common law courts instead of, say, the Fair Work Commission."


Peter Doulis damages case could prompt more workplace claims , Lexi Metherell, The World Today, ABC, 16 September 2014

Meredith Peace, Australian Education Union : "There are considerable numbers of cases of teacher stress in our schools".

Australian Education Union state president Meredith Peace said the Werribee case indicated broader problems in Victorian schools.

"There are considerable numbers of cases of teacher stress in our schools," she said.

"It is a significant problem and it is in our view not being addressed in an appropriate way."


$750k for teaching 'feral' students, Pia Akerman, p.3, The Weekend Australian, 6-7 September 2014

26 January 2015 : Werribee Secondary College principal Steve Butyn was given an Australia Day award.

Werribee Secondary College Principal Steve Butyn was celebrated on Australia Day 2015. 

He was awarded an Australia Day honour for "outstanding service to education".

"Principal Steve Butyn ... has greatly influenced educational thought within the City of Wyndham and beyond," said a spokesman for the Victorian Education Department.


Peter Doulis said that this Australia Day honour was "not the sort of message our society should be sending"

"Giving him this honour is rewarding a negative," Mr Doulis said.


Werribee Secondary College pays out six-figure sum to second teacher over workplace mistreatment, Nick Toscano, The Age, 4 February 2015.

4 February 2015 : Werribee Secondary College has been forced to pay out a six-figure sum to another teacher.

Werribee Secondary College has been forced into a second major settlement over claims of workplace mistreatment.

The female teacher's lawsuit was based on claims that Werribee Secondary College management intentionally gave her an unduly heavy load of the worst-behaved classes because she had raised workplace complaints and they 'wanted me out".


Werribee Secondary College has now faced at least five WorkCover stress claims and three lawsuits from teachers alleging bullying and "burnout" after being given too many classes of badly behaved students.


Werribee Secondary College pays out six-figure sum to second teacher over workplace mistreatment, Nick Toscano, The Age, 4 February 2015.

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