Grafton RE teacher stood down

A RELIGIOUS education teacher in Grafton has been stood down for telling a Year 6 class the Victorian bushfires were God's punishment for decriminalising abortion.

The 73-year-old teacher was removed from the classroom after a supervising teacher notified the principal of the statement.

School education director for Clarence Valley public schools Ron Phillips confirmed the incident took place at Grafton Public School on Tuesday.

“Special religious education teachers are employed by the Ministers' Fraternal and they undergo training in the curriculum and have appropriate child protection tests before they are allowed to teach in government schools,” Mr Phillips said.

“My understanding is that she will no longer be teaching in public schools.”

But one of the student's parents is concerned there aren't enough checks in place to ensure the subject is taught appropriately.

Bonnie Capell's 11-year-old son was in the class when the statement was made. She said her son was very upset by what the teacher said.

While praising the school's quick response, she said it should never have happened.

“If you send your children to a public school you expect the scripture teaching to be very vanilla,” she said.

“The comment was extremely inappropriate for the age group and extremely inappropriate to be delivered in the guise of religious education.

“A lot of those students won't even know what abortion is. They probably had to go home and ask their parents,” Ms Capell said.

The teacher's anti-abortion statement echoed that made directly after the fires by Pentecostal pastor Danny Nalliahhas.

He came under intense criticism at the time for being insensitive to the families of the more than 200 people who died in the bushfires.

A spokesperson for the Clarence Valley Ministers' Fraternal said the teacher concerned was devastated by what occurred and had apologised to the school.

“The teacher has had a brilliant career teaching many children over many years,” she said.

“She admits she had a slip of the tongue and realises it is time to retire, and that's what she's done.”

The spokesperson said the matter was an isolated lapse of judgement and parents had no cause for concern.

“There is always a teacher from the school present during classes, we have a curriculum that is approved by the Department of Education and volunteers undergo regular training,” the spokesperson said.

“The teachers know they have to stick to the curriculum, but occasionally people say the wrong thing - just look at what happened to (jailed former Federal Court judge) Marcus Einfeld,” the spokesperson said.

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