Toilet queue ‘rumble’ ends in licence suspension for drunk ECE teacher

An early childhood education teacher has had her licence to teach suspended after pushing to the front of a toilet queue and drunkenly assaulting a woman who tried to stop the ensuing fight.

The teacher, Louise Tagica, was at a concert at Western Springs in Auckland on November 18, 2018.

About 4.30pm, “very intoxicated”, she went into a nearby petrol station and pushed to the front of the line, according to the agreed statement of facts outlined in a Teacher’s Disciplinary Tribunal decision published last week.

“Disgruntled occupants began to tell the respondent to get back but she became agitated at this and began swearing and yelling. She pushed and shoved occupants in the line whilst making her way to the front.”

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A woman who had been at the concert tried to break things up but Tagica grabbed her right bicep and punched it.

“The victim was screaming to her to let go but the respondent didn’t. The victim finally managed to break free but the respondent then grabbed the top of her hair and pulled her in a downwards motion. The respondent then punched the victim approximately four times in the face,” the statement says.

Tagica was charged with assault but was not convicted because she completed police diversion.

Earlier that year Tagica had also been involved in a drink-driving incident in Māngere and was convicted, but failed to report her conviction to the Teaching Council as required by law.

Tagica, who now lives in Australia, represented herself at the disciplinary tribunal hearing on June 1 via video call.

The tribunal’s complaints assessment committee alleged the assault amounted to serious misconduct and initially recommended her licence be cancelled, but the tribunal decided on a suspension on account of her remorse.

Tagica was first registered as an early childhood teacher in April 2017, and had provisional certification. In July 2018 she was employed as the head teacher for the under-2s at Bright Sparks Childcare Centre in Māngere.

After three months she was asked to be head teacher of the under-2s, despite being only provisionally certified, because there was nobody else to do the job.

She resigned in May 2019, and the Teaching Council received a mandatory report about the incidents in June.

In her version of events there were about 20 people in line for the toilet following the Western Springs concert.

“We started pushing and shoving each other,” she told the tribunal. But she did not believe she injured the other woman, adding it was “just scratches”.

Asked about her guilty plea, the woman said she had been advised by police to take diversion and disputed the police version of events.

While she had been “aggro”, got into “a little rumble” and there was “pushing, shoving, pulling”, she claimed she had not punched the victim.

Tagica earlier told a CAC investigator via email that she had “gone through a little trouble outside of work”.

“I do not condone myself in any type of violence or would ever in my life assault someone. Like I said, I have learnt from my mistakes and I only did what I did at the time to protect myself yet I got caught up in the act when I thought I was defending myself.”

She was sorry and ashamed of her actions, took full responsibility and wanted to move on with her life “thinking and making positive decisions”.

She knew she was a good teacher who was passionate about the job, and would not let the incident define her, she wrote.

As part of her diversion she had completed a community alcohol and drugs (CADS) programme, and did not drink any more, or associate with people who drank.

The tribunal heard around the time of Tagica’s drink-driving she would regularly drink a whole box, or 12 cans of Smirnoff. But she had now stopped drinking completely as it cost too much, she said.

The CAC had “no hesitation” in finding Tagica’s actions amounted to serious misconduct. It also made an adverse finding over the drink driving.

It said that while Tagica had accepted responsibility for her actions, it wasn’t clear if she had insight into her behaviour or had resolved her issues with alcohol.

The tribunal said after hearing from Tagica in person it did not feel reassured, and wanted to know more about her relationship to violence and alcohol.

“When we asked the respondent how we could be reassured that she would not lash out at children, her response was that was a ‘hard question’.”

The tribunal ​suspended Tagica’s practising certificate until she could attend an impairment assessment, and said she must have a mentor approved by the Teaching Council for one year upon returning to practise in New Zealand.

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