The video shows Steve Warner, the principal of Manor Lakes P-12 College in Wyndham Vale southwest of Melbourne, hauling a nine-year-old boy by his left arm.The footage appears to have been taken on a mobile phone and was posted to social media on Thursday.
Victorian Education Minister James Merlino said the footage was "appalling and concerning"."Let me very clear, I will not tolerate this kind of completely unacceptable behaviour in our schools," Mr Merlino said while announcing the principal had been immediately stood down.
But parents and educators are pleading with the public to keep an open mind, saying it is wrong to jump to conclusions on the strength of a short video clip viewed without context.Teachers safety, too quick to judge
Educational psychologist and RMIT Adjunct Professor Helen McGrath told The New Daily the public didn't know the circumstances behind the video and the school had an obligation to not reveal details for the student's privacy.Professor McGrath said dragging a child was "not the right move" and "seriously dangerous", but thought it unlikely an experienced principal would use aggressive discipline in normal circumstances.
"It doesn't have the characteristics of just a naughty kid giving cheek," she said.The education trainer said best practice in child behaviour management was assertive discipline that involves calming down a child, not aggressive, violent, coersive or threatening practices.
However, Professor McGrath said the teacher's duty of care was often "complex" and legal protections were given if physical restraint was necessary to protect the child, other children or staff.She said "assertive-style disciple" that hangs on appealing to the student's rational mind was often difficult with younger children, those with behavioural disorders or mild intellectual disabilities
"I'm always struck by how hard teachers work to get it right and to keep everyone safe," Professor McGrath said, adding "we don't have all of the information in this case."Online petition to reinstate stood down principal
An online petition to the Victorian Education Minister to "reinstate" Mr Warner as principal of Manor Lakes had received almost 4000 signatures by late on Friday afternoon."We are asking that his dedicated work at the school not be in vain due to this one isolated incident," the change.org page read.
"The worst outcome of this situation would be for the school to lose him as the principal and leader."Many parents heralded Mr Warner's work at the school and sought to justify "manhandling" under "extreme circumstances" and the "safety of others".
"I have a child who was like this a few years back," parent Jess Spiers wrote. "I one hundred percent support the principal, as I supported the principal that had to hold my son who was out of control."Investigation into teaching conduct
The Victorian Institute of Teachers told The New Daily it was conducting an investigation into the principal's conduct and "can't comment at this time".An investigation will determine if Mr Warner complied with the Victorian Teaching Profession Code of Conduct.
Relevant principles include teachers treating "learners" with "courtesy and dignity" as educators' personal conduct has an impact on the "profession as a whole".An spokeswoman for the Department of Education and Training told the ABC it was aware of the video and had also launched an investigation.
"All school staff are expected to uphold the department's values, and abide by the Child Safe Standards," the spokeswoman said.The department's policy on restraint says staff members may "take any reasonable action that is immediately required to restrain a student from acts or behaviour dangerous to the member of staff, the student, or any other person".