A maths teacher sacked from his job at St Kevin’s College in February has admitted to giving a 16-year-old student a “side hug” and calling him “sweetie” but denied touching his cheek or referring to his strong abdominal muscles.

Simon Parris alleges St Kevin’s College, a Catholic boys’ school in Toorak, dismissed him unfairly and is fighting to be reinstated as a teacher there.

Simon Parris, a former maths teacher at St Kevin’s College, is claiming the school dismissed him unfairly.

But Mr Parris also admitted in a virtual Fair Work Commission hearing on Monday that he “made a very bad mistake and it involved crossing a professional boundary” on the day he pulled the boy out of class, sat beside him on a couch and put his arm across the boy’s shoulders.

The hug – or “side hug” as Mr Parris referred to it – took place in June 2019, four months after the teacher was given a warning by St Kevin’s then headmaster Stephen Russell to stop his practice of hugging boys at the school.

The hearing was told the boy, referred to as Student A, has suffered anxiety since that day. According to the boy’s witness statement, he broke down crying months later and asked for Mr Parris to be removed from the school.

Mr Parris was in charge of musical productions at St Kevin’s and said in evidence that he would sometimes hug students in rehearsals. But he said the hugs were not intimate in nature and were intended as acts of encouragement.

Mr Parris, who was a VCE teacher for 29 years before his dismissal, also admitted to viewing hardcore pornography on his work laptop, in breach of school policies.

Mr Parris was dismissed on February 20, the day former St Patrick’s College principal John Crowley replaced Mr Russell as St Kevin’s headmaster.

Mr Parris was one of several teachers who was dismissed in the aftermath of a Four Corners expose on alleged child grooming at the Catholic boys’ school in Toorak.

Mr Russell resigned after it was revealed that he provided a brief reference in court for Peter Kehoe, a former volunteer coach at the college who was convicted of child grooming.

The Victorian Institute of Teaching suspended Mr Parris’ registration on March 16 this year, about three weeks after his employment was ended at St Kevin’s.

St Kevin’s College is governed by Edmund Rice Education Australia, which is responding to Mr Parris’ unfair dismissal case.

The Victorian Institute of Teaching suspended Mr Parris’ registration in March.

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