VCAT: a nursery nurse cleared for a tickling game


A nursery nurse regularly played a tickling game with children until she was accused of improper touching. Now it is in the clear.

A former Victorian educator has had her work with children check restored after being allowed to inappropriately touch children during a “monster tickle” game.

Paul Kefford regularly played the tickling game with the children in front of other staff and parents without complaint at the center where he worked, a court said.

But in October 2020, he was dismissed from his post, pending an investigation into allegations the 55-year-old man touched a boy and girl, both aged four, in their area. genital during the rugged match in which he played a monster chasing children to tickle.

He was formally questioned by his employer, Department of Education officials and Victoria Police. He has never been charged with any offense.

Mr Kefford admitted that he may have inadvertently touched children in the ways they described as they squirmed and squirmed during the game, but categorically denied that touching was anything other than accidental, the Victoria Civil and Administrative Court said.

Mr Kefford was banned in November 2020 by the Education Department from working in childcare and has resigned. The prohibition notice was then revoked by the VCAT.

His permission to work with children was also revoked, a move Mr Kefford also fought at VCAT.

VCAT Vice President Heather Lambrick found that any contact by Mr Kefford near a child’s genital area or on a child’s skin was “neither intentional nor inappropriately motivated.”

“By regularly playing the loud tickle monster game, Mr. Kefford had no ulterior motives but played the game only for the enjoyment and benefit of the children he was playing the game with and for no other reason,” a- she declared.

“When children squirm in horror and pleasure, it is of course possible that they are inadvertently touched on a ‘private’ part of their body, whether through clothing or when wearing shorts. skirts on the skin.

“I fully accepted Mr. Kefford’s testimony that this in fact happened.”

Mr. Kefford has never been charged with any criminal offense arising out of the conduct.

The secretary of the state’s justice department pointed out that Mr Kefford was a trusted adult educator who put himself in danger of touching children’s genitals.

It was argued that this was a deviation from expected standards and the need to always respect children’s bodies.

Ms Lambrick said she was satisfied Mr Kefford poses “no risk to children” and has reinstated his work check with children.

“I accept that Mr Kefford took full responsibility for his actions,” Ms Lambrick said in her ruling just before Christmas.

“Although he was bowled over by the consequences of the game, he gave full thought to his conduct and vowed never to repeat it.

“Mr. Kefford testified that he did not intend to work in the daycare again because he himself was traumatized by the consequences of the driving. I fully accept that it was.

“He was investigated, lost his job, had to undergo two separate hearings in this tribunal, and explain and re-explain his conduct to his many character references.

“Having discovered that Mr. Kefford poses no risk to children, I am convinced that it is in the public interest for Mr. Kefford to engage with children.

“He has his own children with whom he wants to be actively involved. He should be allowed to do this.

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