Whanganui teacher charged with serious misconduct after smoking meth at school

The Whanganui teacher, Katherine Kirk, arrived at the office with bloodshot eyes.
The Whanganui teacher, Katherine Kirk, arrived at the office with bloodshot eyes. Photo credit: Getty Images

A Whanganui teacher has been charged with serious misconduct after smoking methamphetamine on school grounds.

The teacher of 15 years, Katherine Kirk, was found guilty of bringing the drug and the contents of a glass pipe onto the school grounds and then using it.

A decision by the Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal has ruled Kirk was under the influence of drugs while at school on multiple occasions.

"If a student had laid their hands on the contents of the case, the results could have been quite severe," the council said.

On September 22, 2020, the glasses case was found by a member of staff and placed on a stool in one of the school's bathrooms.

It contained a glass pipe commonly used to consume methamphetamine, and three "straws" commonly used to scoop methamphetamine.

According to the council, the bathroom was often used by teacher aides and special needs students.

The principal and school board were immediately informed of the discovery.

While this was happening, Kirk was seen coming into the staffroom "acting as if she was looking around for something" and "appearing stressed".

After the principal announced an investigation, the teacher arrived in the principal's office with "bloodshot eyes".

When asked, she denied knowing anything about the pipe.

The principal recounted to the Tribunal that Kirk arrived at the office unannounced, before asking if fingerprint samples had been taken from the bathroom.

On December 4, 2020, police interviewed Kirk and she admitted the glass pipe came from her bag.

Kirk claimed she was holding onto the pipe for someone else and had brought it to school grounds by accident.

She told police the pipe had fallen out of her bag.

"I absolutely did not, have not, and would not use any drug while at my workplace or around any children ever," she said.

In a letter to the tribunal, Kirk later admitted she had tried meth during the 2020 lockdown.

"I told the Police that the pipe was mine and I had smoked from it."

According to Kirk she was feeling stressed and bullied by her school principal.

"When school resumed, I had a couple of weekends where I smoked marijuana and meth."

She claimed the bullying had made her feel both "worthless and confused."

However, the Tribunal did not accept the pipe had been brought to the school by accident.

"The glasses case was found resting on a stool under the sink, making it quite improbable that it fell from a backpack and somehow ended up there," the decision said.

Multiple teachers described Kirk's behaviour as regularly "erratic" since the COVID-19 lockdown.

According to teachers, Kirk came to work at odd hours and made regular visits to the bathroom.

One commented that she appeared to be "on something", as she would be silly and laugh a lot.

Another described her as being "up one minute and then down the next".

"We are driven to an inescapable conclusion that it is highly likely that Ms Kirk consumed methamphetamine at the school on several occasions," the Tribunal said.

According to them, she had "definitely" consumed the drug on the day the incident unfolded.

Kirk's teacher's licence was cancelled and she was ordered to pay half the costs of the legal proceedings, totalling $5479.25.

"It is always a very sad day when a teacher's career is ruined by their actions in falling under a drug such as methamphetamine," the Tribunal said.