Teacher deregistered for becoming fixated on teen

AIMEE GULLIVER
Last updated 10:38 27/05/2014

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A teenager who suffered both socially and academically after rebuffing her teacher's advances has been praised for being the adult in the situation.

In a decision released today, the Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal cancelled the male teacher's registration for serious misconduct in engaging in an inappropriate relationship with a 16-year-old student in 2012 when he was first employed at her school.

The teacher became fixated with the student, engaging with her on social media and making sexually suggestive comments relating to a school trip, saying he lay awake on the trip hoping the girl would come to his room, the tribunal decision said.

"All I wanted on our trip was to be beside you the whole time, I was always trying to be close to you without overdoing it," he said.

"I couldn't sleep on the first night because I was hoping you would sneak into my room - what a perve, I know."

He disclosed personal information to the student, including that he was experiencing difficulties in his marriage and issues with his health and depression.

Despite the student's attempts to deter him, the teacher persisted in the inappropriate communications and sent her a video of him singing the Leonard Cohen song Hallelujah and playing the ukulele, which he said he made for his wife, but wanted to share with the student.

The student was so uncomfortable after receiving the video she posted on her social media Tumblr page that he should not have sent it and regardless of whether he loved his wife, a 16-year-old should not have to tell him that, the decision said.

She deliberately included her age in the post to try to "wake up" the teacher to the situation he was in, she said.

Having seen the Tumblr post, the teacher's wife contacted the student, and told her not to tell anyone about their relationship as her husband, who she said was mentally unstable, could lose his job.

The student felt conflicted, and had feelings of responsibility, guilt and revulsion, she said.

At the beginning of November 2012, the teacher disclosed to the school principal he was depressed and had been involved in communications on social media with a student, which he accepted was inappropriate.

He was instructed by the principal not to contact the student again, and he agreed not to do so, but breached this undertaking within weeks - communicating with her again via social networks and directly approaching her, the decision said.

The teacher's wife also maintained communication with the student from November 2012 until about August 2013 as a result of discovering the relationship.

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Despite his wife becoming aware of his relationship with the student and knowing she was troubled by the communication and in frequent communication with the student, the teacher did nothing to bring the communication to an end, the tribunal said.

The student felt isolated and vulnerable as a result of the communications from the teacher and his wife, and suffered both socially and academically as a result of the teacher's advances.

The tribunal said inappropriate romantic relationships with sexual overtones, even where they did not involve a physical relationship, were unacceptable, and a "gross breach of trust" on the teacher's part.

Although no intimate physical relationship developed between the teacher and the student, that appeared to be more of a reflection of her maturity and common sense rather than anything else.

"[The case] paints a picture of a reversal of roles, with the [teacher] demonstrating remarkable emotional immaturity, and the student assuming the role of the adult," the tribunal decision said.

The teacher's manipulation of the situation to his own advantage demonstrated he was oblivious to the student's wellbeing, and was the most disturbing aspect of the case.

There was no doubt the advances of the teacher would have had an adverse impact on the student who showed genuine wisdom in the way she dealt with the situation, the tribunalsaid.

He had crossed the line "well and truly" and presented a potential danger to students.

The teacher said he was suffering from depression at the time of the misconduct and has subsequently received medical treatment.

- Stuff

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