‘Defamation of a Beloved Teacher’: Community Backs Teacher Charged With Assaulting Student

By Nina Nguyen
Nina Nguyen
Nina Nguyen
Nina Nguyen is a reporter based in Sydney. She covers Australian news with a focus on social, cultural, and identity issues. She is fluent in Vietnamese. Contact her at nina.nguyen@epochtimes.com.au.
March 22, 2023Updated: March 28, 2023

Support is growing for a 62-year-old teacher who was charged with physically attacking a student in a high school classroom in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW).

Footage emerged on social media on Tuesday showing Michael John Kable, a Maitland Grossmann High School teacher, and a student tossing scrunched-up paper balls at each other.

The paper fight quickly escalated into a classroom brawl as the teacher got hold of the student and dragged him across the desk. In return, another student tried to grab the teacher by his collar.

Another student pushed the teacher away and yelled: “You wanna … touch him again.”

Several students recorded the brawl. The video shows students hurling abuse at the teacher, one of them throwing a desk at the teacher.

“You … off you’re touching children,” one male student shouts.

“Are you … stupid?” another says.

At one point, the teacher seems to push a boy to the ground next to the whiteboard at the front of the classroom before allegedly winding up his arm and hitting the student.

The teacher then walks out of the classroom, stood in the doorway and shouted at the students: “Who wants to have a go?”

Support Growing For Teacher

Kable was arrested on Tuesday night and later charged with common assault. The NSW Education department suspended his employment while the police investigation is underway.

An online petition called “Justice for Mr Kable” was later created, urging people to back the teacher who was said to have suffered from “numerous and countless amounts of verbal and physical abuse from students throughout his career.”

The petition alleges that due to “the weak and inconsistent school punishment,” the students who abused Kale will only “get a ‘slap on the wrist, as punishment”

“These students get exactly what they want, suspension (time off school). Although the videos do show Mr Kable becoming physical, who wouldn’t after having a table thrown at you, verbal slurs coming from many students, being pushed, shoved and slapped,” the petition said.

“Mr Kable being accused of assaulting the student leading to out-of-context videos being published throughout the media resulting in the defamation of a beloved teacher, father and husband.”

“Mr Kable does NOT deserve to lose; His job! His family! His reputation! And most importantly, his life.”

The petition has already garnered 1,500 signatures at 6 p.m., March 22.

A hashtag #bringbackkable was also trending online, with people taking to social media to express their support.

“Might be an unpopular opinion, but if a kid threw a table at me, I’d probably ragdoll him too,” wrote Facebook user, Dylan Matheson.

“Being married to a teacher, I think it’s disgusting the behaviour they put up with. The kids parents have a lot to answer for too. I would’ve been more than ragdolled by my parents if I threw a table at a teacher.”

Students Have No Major Injuries

NSW Police said the students involved in the confrontation suffered no major injuries.

“Officers from Port Stephens-Hunter Police District were called to a high school on Cumberland Street, East Maitland, after reports a student had allegedly been assaulted by a male teacher,” an NSW Police spokesman said.

“The teenage boy was assessed at the scene by NSW Ambulance paramedics; however, was not physically injured.”

Kable was given conditional bail to appear before Maitland Local Court on April 6.

The Department of Education is investigating the matter.

According to the NSW Education Department, the charge of assaulting, stalking, harassing or intimidating any school student or member of staff while the student or member of staff is attending school carries a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment.

When asked about the matter, Opposition Leader Chris Minns said, “I don’t know the circumstances”, before commenting that “teachers have never been under so much pressure.”

“Discipline in school is important. Part of that is ensuring that when teachers make calls or principals, they are backed up,” he told Nine News on Wednesday.

“If there are examples of that in NSW education, we have to make sure the teachers are backed up.”

Increasing Violence At Public Schools

Australia is witnessing a rising tide of assaults in public schools.

A study by Monash University academics in 2022 revealed that Australian educators face a higher risk of being attacked at work or suffering mental health conditions than any other profession.

The academics analysed 1.5 million compensation claims from 2009-2015 and found 4.5 per cent of teachers’ cases related to assault, compared to just two percent for non-educators.

Data from the NSW Education department also showed that physical violence in school has escalated over time, with 632 cases of teachers being assaulted by students in 2019.

“By international standards, Australia has some of the most disruptive classrooms in the world. On the OECD’s index of disciplinary climate, Australia ranks at 70th out of 77 school systems — and has been sliding down the ranks,” said Glenn Fahey, an education expert at the Centre for Independent Studies.

“Two in five students say their classmates don’t listen to what their teacher says. And almost half say there is noise and disorder in most or all lessons.”

AAP contributed to this report.