Australia: Doulis case empowers teachers


Peter Doulis. Photo: Fairfax Media.

After teacher Peter Doulis won his case against the state for breaching their duty of care, other mistreated teachers are coming forward.

The road ahead looks brighter for Peter Doulis. After a landmark ruling, the teacher will be given more than $1 million in damages from the state government after his mental state deteriorated when he was allocated too many unruly classes at Werribee Secondary College.

Mr Doulis, 48, taught at the school from 1998 to 2004, until he suffered a mental breakdown after being allocated a heavy workload of ‘low’ and ‘foundation’ classes at the school. He told the court he was forced to teach classes that included students who had ADHD, autism, dyslexia and acquired brain injuries. He relayed cases where he was personally threatened by students, they would break windows and even attempt to light other students on fire with homemade flame throwers.

After relaying the problems to the school’s principals, no help was given, causing Mr Doulis’ health to deteriorate to the point where he could never work as a teacher again.

The ruling has caused a flurry of teachers with similar situations come to the fore, encouraged to tell their stories and seek damages.

Mr Doulis’ solicitor, Michael Magazanik, for Slater & Gordon says he’s received more than 20 emails this week from people asking for assistance.

“It’s certainly sparked a lot of interest, from teachers and from others too,” Mr Magazanik tells Neos Kosmos.

“These claims are hard though,” he admits.

Mr Magazanik has seen first hand cases of a similar nature that have been booted out of court because the cases haven’t been as strong.

Mr Doulis’ case included written evidence of correspondence with the school’s principals, doctor and psychologist evaluations and a compelling witness testimony from Mr Doulis himself.

“Peter had done a terrific job in the witness box, under extremely difficult circumstances,” Mr Magazanik says.

“The education department and the school defended the claims strenuously, they brought teachers and principals to court to deny almost everything Mr Doulis had said.”

“It’s not a case about stress or hard work, it’s a case of his health going downhill, and him bringing that to the attention of the school’s principals and them doing absolutely nothing for him.”

Mr Doulis has been fighting to have his case heard for 10 years. Unfortunately his battle isn’t over, with the prospect of an appeal in the future.

“There is a possibility that the work cover authority or the state will appeal, so I’ve warned Peter that this may not be the end, that we might have to fight it off in appeal,” Mr Magazanik says.

“But I really do think after 10 years the defendant ought to leave it alone, and let Peter get on with the rest of his life.”

The damages awarded to Mr Doulis are quite high for a personal injury matter, which might give the state more reason to take the matter to appeal.

Supreme Court Justice Timothy Ginnane ruled that Mr Doulis should be paid $760,000 in lost earnings and damages and the payout could go much higher when the case returns to court to add an additional figure for future lost earnings.

Mr Magazanik says his client is relieved at the outcome for now, and says his focus is now on getting his health back.

Mr Doulis declined to comment to Neos Kosmos.

source: Neos Kosmos

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