School forced to pay over $1m in workplace mistreatment case

by James Reid06 Feb 2015

Increasing reports of workplace mistreatment in schools are likely to call into question how seriously schools are taking the issue.

A Melbourne school was recently ordered to pay over $1m to a teacher whose “difficult classes” caused him to suffer a nervous breakdown.

The payout follows similar complaints that have emerged against Werribee Secondary College, which has faced at least three “burnout” and bullying-related lawsuits.

Former Werribee Secondary College teacher, Peter Doulis, was awarded $1.3m after suffering a nervous breakdown and severe depression while working at the school.

In a Victorian Supreme Court ruling, it was found that the school breached its duty of care because it “did not reduce the number of difficult classes” Doulis had to teach. A lack of support from the school was also cited.

Following this case, Fairfax Media confirmed this week that a former teacher at the same school had been awarded a six-figure damages payout for psychological injuries.

However, an Education Department spokesman has said the latest legal claim related to practices that have now been phased out and "does not relate to current practices at the school".

"Teachers are given classes across levels and are not disproportionately allocated to any one level," the spokesman told The Age.

"Teachers can no longer request to teach only one level."

Werribee Secondary principal, Steve Butyn, who was implicated in both former teachers’ allegations, was recently awarded an Australia Day honour - something that Doulis believes “sends the wrong message”.

"There was a culture at the school that has left a lot of teachers damaged," Doulis said.

"He was in charge and the buck stopped with him. Giving him this honour is rewarding a negative."

 
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