One of New Zealand’s biggest online stars says he had his mouth bandaged by a teacher
One of New Zealand’s biggest TikTok stars says he was mocked and had his mouth bandaged by a teacher as a young teenager – and his newfound online stardom prompted authorities to keep the teacher’s name secret.
Zephan Clark has 2.9 million followers on Tik Tok, making him the second most followed New Zealander on the popular video platform. Clark says he was repeatedly humiliated – including having duct tape over his mouth – by a teacher at a North Island secondary school in 2016, when he was 14.
Clark’s family say the stress of the situation forced them to move to another part of the North Island, and the impacts on Clark’s mental health eventually led him to drop out of formal school altogether at 15. year.
The Board of Education Disciplinary Tribunal found Clark’s teacher guilty of misconduct and that his actions “may have brought the teaching profession into disrepute”. He said the reasons for removing his name had not been proven.
* Dramatic increase in the number of teachers being investigated by the Teaching Council
* Teacher censored after drinking before parent-teacher night
* Teacher exposed suicide by year 11 student censured for inappropriate relationship
But the ‘threat’ of a social media campaign against the teacher by Clark, who was 18 at the time, meant the court ordered the teacher’s name permanently removed anyway.
The name of the school involved was also removed, to be released along with the name of the school principal and the identity of the Clark family, in a major privacy breach in December 2021.
Clark, now 20, emigrated with his family from England in 2016 and attended school where his father, Paul Clark, was employed as a head teacher. He says he was singled out by one of his Grade 10 teachers because he was “different.” The teacher often mimicked his English accent and isolated him by having him sit alone in the back of the class.
Clark says the behavior continued for almost an entire term — even after he approached the teacher directly and demanded it stop.
“He looked me in the eye and said ‘I’m so sorry’ and ‘Let’s wipe the slate clean.’ is finished ! “.
“And I went back to his class and the same day he started again.”
On one occasion, Clark says the teacher pressed duct tape over Clark’s mouth while the class was laughing.
An investigation by the Teaching Council’s Complaints Assessment Committee (CAC) found the teacher guilty of misconduct, but said that because the teacher’s actions were “humorously intentional “, they amounted to a “misjudgment”. He ordered her to sign a censorship agreement and pay $458 in fees.
But Zephan’s father Paul Clark – who filed the complaint – refused to accept the censorship, saying it did not paint a true picture of what had happened to his son.
Paul Clark said Things her son was questioned only once, via the Zoom link, and his testimony was not included in the final report of the Disciplinary Tribunal (DT). In a transcript of the interview seen by Things, Zephan Clark explains that the teacher made fun of him for weeks and it continued after he and his parents all asked the teacher to stop. He also describes the teacher putting several pieces of tape over his mouth and “tapping” him.
“I tried to see it as a joke, I really tried,” he tells the interviewer.
The interview is not mentioned in the Tribunal’s report. Instead, the hearing proceeded on the basis of an “agreed summary of facts” between the CCC and the teacher, which suggested that the teacher’s teasing of Zephan was an isolated incident, and given a different version of the incident from the tape.
“It was alleged that in 2016, the respondent imitated the sounds made by Student A, put a piece of clear tape on Student A’s upper lip but did not secure it to his lip. lower, and that he used the word ‘piss’.”
Paul Clark claims they don’t know why Zephan’s testimony was rejected. They had asked to attend the Tribunal hearing in person and were told they could, and they were dismayed to learn after the fact that it had taken place “on paper” without their knowledge.
“I would have loved to go there, for my own clarity and for my own good. I would have liked to talk to someone face to face, [and] being in the room where people are discussing what happened to me,” Zephan Clark said.
A spokesperson for the Teaching Council declined to answer questions about the case, saying the disciplinary tribunal was a quasi-judicial body independent of the Teaching Council and therefore ‘not appropriate’ Council to comment.
When asked why the Clark family were told they could attend the court hearing only to be kept away, the spokesperson replied: ‘We cannot comment on specific matters, but please note that the initiators are not parties to the DT procedure. The parties are the CAC and the teacher.
The Council did not respond to a question about how the “accepted facts” in the case were agreed upon, or why the Clarks’ version of events was not included.
Paul Clark admits to writing a letter to the CAC in which he strongly rebutted his characterization of the teacher’s behavior, rejected the option of censorship and said Zephan wanted to shine a light on teenage mental health by talking about his experience on his social media accounts.
A paragraph of the four-page letter reads: “[Zephan] became an advocate for teen mental health issues and anti-bullying campaigns. He intends to engage in a media campaign over this incident so as to highlight the failures of an entire system to support him.
The Tribunal’s December 2020 Final Report asserts that Paul Clark did not act in a “fair and reasonable manner” in rejecting the CAC’s censure option and that “there is every chance [he] militarized the complaint process”.
The court ruling said the teacher’s name should be permanently removed “to protect his privacy interests in the likely event that a social media campaign is launched by [Clark].
“[A]Any such campaign may be conducted without reference to the [teacher’s] Last name.”
The family were left angry and confused by the results.
Zephan Clark said Things he only wanted to tell his story using his own social media platforms.
“[I] never intended to use the teacher’s name or the school’s name for that matter, I can understand the reasons for keeping this private. But I wanted to talk about my problems and the things I went through because it might help another teenager.
“The suppression order made me feel like I couldn’t say anything more,” said Zephan Clark.
“Every step of the way, we felt as a family that he had been let down by the system,” Paul Clark said.
“First we went to school and they let us down. Then we went to the Teaching Council, and we thought they would probably fix the problem. If it was dropped by the system, how many others were dropped? »