Principal ‘pressured’ sick teacher: Report

A QUEENSLAND principal has been ordered to do undergo a "refresher" course in "code of conduct" training after she allegedly failed to support a vulnerable teacher returning to work after brain surgery.

He committed suicide several years later.

The education department took "management action" against Jennifer Easey, principal of Sunshine Beach State School, in February after a formal complaint was lodged with ethical standards following the suicide of teacher Adam Bruin, aged 37, in November 2017.

Ms Easey has applied to the Supreme Court in Brisbane to block the department's bid to force her to do the refresher course. She says in court documents that she has not been found guilty of any of the alleged misconduct and no adverse findings have been made against her.

Ms Easey was ordered to complete the "refresher" course in the Education Department's "code of conduct" by March 13, after she was found to have "seriously breached her obligations to demonstrate a high standard of workplace behaviour" after she allegedly failed to support Bruin, a father of two, court documents state.

She is also alleged to have "inappropriately" overturned a decision allowing another senior teacher to act as Bruin's return to work co-ordinator (RWC) and rehabilitation officer, and allegedly had a conflict of interest in appointing herself as his RWC, court documents state.

Adam Bruin and daughter Priya.
Adam Bruin and daughter Priya.

Mrs Easey's "alleged conduct" jeopardised the "health and wellbeing of staff members … particularly vulnerable staff members undergoing rehabilitation" such as Bruin, according to a letter from Desmond Kluck, the department's executive director of integrity and employee relations, on February 13, filed in court documents.

"I am very concerned by the allegations," Mr Kluck told Ms Easey in the February letter, sent three months after an "external" investigation reported its findings on 14 claims of misconduct made against Ms Easey.

The investigation report, filed in court, found Ms Easey should have realised she risked "putting a large amount of pressure" on Bruin to "accelerate his healing and return to work quickly' in late 2014 after his brain surgery in March 2014.

The investigation report by law firm Ashurst, also found the claim that Ms Easey told Bruin he "had ten weeks to gradually work back to full time" and that the ten weeks was an "arbitrary and unrealistic goal" was "substantiated".

The report, dated December last year, also ruled that claims that Ms Easey should have realised that Bruin "was not coping with" his "demanding role and workload" as a special-education teacher in 2016 were "partially substantiated".

The report states Ms Easey should have realised the special-education teacher role "would have been challenging" for Bruin.

Bruin allegedly "burst into tears", felt "humiliated" and "had a panic attack" during a meeting with Ms Easey to remove him from his job as special-education teacher in December 2016 and instead teach Italian, despite not speaking the language, court documents state.

The report stated that had Ms Easey realised Mr Bruin was not coping, she could have given him the support he needed.

Ms Easey submitted to the court that the education department "made no adverse findings" against her and "did not find" her "guilty of any of the 14 allegations of misconduct".

Ms Easey told the court she was "aggrieved" by the departments decision to send her for training because "the decision is a detrimental employee record" and "may affect promotion or other employment opportunities in the future".

The Ashurst report found that Ms Easey's actions toward Mr Bruin were without "animosity, ill-will or malice".

Mr Bruin's former partner Tara Gillan lodged the complaint with the department's ethical standards unit, two weeks after Mr Bruin's death, court documents state.