Education Minister quickly resigns after new allegations of abusive behavior
Education Minister Dennis Wiersma announced his immediate resignation on Thursday following fresh complaints about his aggressive, bullying behavior in the workplace. The new allegations regarded complaints about "verbal and physical harassment" that were lodged at the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science after Wiersma visited an event in Bussum ten days ago. The organizers of the Day of Practical Education filed the complaint.
Wiersma has been in the spotlight since the spring about his behavior at the workplace, and Wednesday's public revelation led to the resignation. "That was not an easy decision. But for me unfortunately an unavoidable consequence of the past period," Wiersma said in a statement he posted on Twitter.
"I deeply regret that Dennis Wiersma has decided, with all his energy and good plans, to step down as Minister for Primary and Secondary Education. I can only respect that decision," Prime Minister Mark Rutte said. "As a Cabinet, we have lost someone who put his heart and soul into education."
Wiersma acknowledged that he sometimes was too sharp-tongued, and too aggressive in his style. "I did not relent if someone said something could not be done. Even if they said that repeatedly. Then I kept pushing, sometimes too fiercely."
He made a similar statement in April, saying he could be too harsh and verbally aggressive towards those working for him. There were also complaints about his behavior from his time as a member of parliament for the VVD, the party of Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
Wiersma pledged to do better in the ensuing months. At the same time, he maintained in his resignation letter that he has been mischaracterized by media outlets at a time when he was trying to repair working relationships, and improve his management style. "However, the solid ground I need to do that is gone."
He also told a recent VVD assembly that he was sorry for his behavior, and said, "I've learned my lesson. It will not happen again." That was on June 3. The new allegations of harassing workers involved the event in Bussum which took place on June 12.
In Wiersma's resignation, he said it was sometimes necessary to strenuously disagree with education sector stakeholders who have insisted on doing things a certain way, despite conflicting feelings of teachers, students and parents based on their own experiences. He said he continued to push for what he saw was the best path for the students' future.
"But in the current circumstances I am not free enough to continue to follow that solid substantive course." And, the education sector as a whole deserves someone who can continue pursuing their policy goals.
Wiersum closed in saying he was thankful for all the people who have supported him in his life and career, including those in the field of education, his VVD political party, and Prime Minister Mark Rutte.