Retired teacher investigated for inappropriate contact

By Lanuola Tusani Tupufia - Ah Tong, 17 April 2019

The Police has begun an investigation into the actions of a retired teacher in a rural primary school following a complaint by a parent that a student was inappropriately touched. 

Tiavea Primary School principal, Seuava Maria Iosefa, told the Samoa Observer that the Police contacted the school to follow-up on the complaint lodged by the parent. 

She said she also spoke with six girls from the school concerning the allegations raised by the students against the retired teacher. 

“When I interviewed the students they did say the teacher pinches them on different part of their body,” she said. 

“They say the teacher – when disciplining them – he pinches them on their mid-body, sometimes pinches the ear but it is nothing intimate or sexual. 

“That is how the teacher disciplines the students rather than hitting them or being too physical. I also asked the students if the teacher had touched them inappropriately which they said no.” 

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The school principal gave the assurance that she has also spoken to the retired male teacher – who is the subject of the complaint – about the concerns expressed by the parent. 

“When I spoke with him he explained that is how he disciplines the students he pinches them. He doesn’t have any bad intention when he does that, he is just disciplining them and is just teaching the students," she said. 

As for concerns from the parent that complaint, Seuava said she has apologised to the parent that complained and assured all other parents that the students are in safe hands. 

She added the teacher involved has been teaching at the school for over 30 years and had his contract extended twice. 

Asked if it is acceptable for the teacher to “pinch” the students, the principal said she sees nothing wrong with the practice as long as the students are not harshly punished. 

Seuava said while the law does not allow corporal punishment inside classrooms, teachers are allowed to use “reasonable force”. 

She added it is unclear how the term “reasonable force” is determined when it is put into practice. 

Contacted for a comment, Police Commissioner, Fuiavailiili Egon Keil referred queries to Assistant Police Commissioner, Papali’i Monalisa Keti. But it was not possible to get a comment from her by the time of going to press. 

However, a police officer – who does not have authority to talk to the media – confirmed there were seven girls from the school in question who were questioned over the incident.  

By Lanuola Tusani Tupufia - Ah Tong, 17 April 2019

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