A former teacher blaming his depression on having too many challenging classes has been accused of exaggerating his workload and damaging the reputations of other staff in a bid to win damages.
Peter Doulis, 47, of Yarraville, says he became suicidal because he was forced to teach an "unfair" proportion of Werribee Secondary College's lowest-achieving and worst-behaved students from 2000 to 2004.
The Werribee school introduced a streaming system in 2000, which divided high and low-achieving students into separate classes.
Mr Doulis, who is suing the state government for more than $1 million, told Supreme Court his classes included students who had ADHD, autism, dyslexia and acquired brain injuries, while the majority of the other students were very badly behaved. Many students fought each other, broke windows, wrote racist and sexual comments on the whiteboard, made threats towards Mr Doulis, and tore up detention notes in front of him.
But on Wednesday, he was accused of trying to make "something out of nothing" so he could win damages from the Victorian government, the operator of the state's public schools.
Mr Doulis alleges he was given the worst classes because he was being "ostracised, bullied and intimidated" by senior teachers who were treating him like a whistleblower after he reported finding hardcore pornography on the school's computer network.
Mr Doulis said he believed the pornography belonged to the two teachers, who were responsible for timetabling, and he soon became "ostracised, bullied and intimidated".
Jack Rush, QC, representing the state government, accused the ex-teacher of trying to damage the reputations of senior staff who would be called to give evidence against his claims.
He said Mr Doulis had made a "mischievous representation" in his affidavit, which stated one of the assistant principals had gone unpunished after inappropriately touching a female year 9 student.
Mr Rush said Mr Doulis knew that the accusation had been disproved after the girl admitted lying.
"But the reason you said this was to besmirch the name of a witness who will differ from your version of events at Werribee Secondary College," Mr Rush said.
He also said Mr Doulis had miscalculated the number of low-end classes he had been allocated, and referred to performance reviews that suggested he wanted to teach those classes.
Under cross examination, Mr Doulis said details of the number of classes he taught at Werribee were stored on a laptop computer, which he no longer owns.
Mr Rush told the court that Mr Doulis had suffered stress and anxiety long before the school introduced the student streaming system.
He said Mr Doulis had confided in a colleague that much of his stress and anxiety was due to a debilitating debt of $1.5 million in a trust fund shared with his two siblings.
But Mr Doulis said his mental state had reached crisis point after several pleas to senior teachers and the principal for a lighter load of the lowest-streamed classes fell on "deaf ears".
He fought back tears when he told the court of sleepless nights spent dreading the next day's classes, and fighting thoughts of suicide.
"For the first time in my life, I was considering suicide," Mr Doulis said. "I was planning it. I planned to drive a car to Falls Creek mountain and drive the car off the side."Mr Doulis had been hospitalised three times due to severe "suicidal ideation".
The trial before Justice Timothy Ginnane continues.