Wellington Girls' College teacher under investigation after alleged inappropriate relationship

Wellington Girls' College where the teacher worked.

Wellington Girls' College where the teacher worked.

A Wellington Girls' College teacher has resigned while under investigation for an alleged inappropriate relationship with a student.

The male teacher resigned from the school in 2015 while under a formal investigation from the school, and is now under investigation by the Education Council.

The professional body has the power to deregister him as a teacher.

Multiple sources from within the school describe a close group of "favourites" that the teacher cultivated. 

A formal complaint was made by a student in 2011, but no serious action appears to have been taken.

The student who made the 2011 complaint said the Head of Department at the time appeared to be concerned, although they urged her not to use the word "grooming" to describe his behaviour. Later, she learnt that the teacher was aware of the complaint and actively discussing it with other students, "which was totally inappropriate."

"Then when we entered year 13 the principal told us not to wear low cut clothing or short skirts because it would 'distract the male teachers'."

In a written statement, Wellington Girls' College board chair Rachel Hayward said the school could not comment on the specifics of the case, but that student safety was their number one concern.

"Student welfare is paramount at Wellington Girls College, and the College has, and uses, robust and effective measures to protect it. Any issue potentially impacting on students which is raised with the College is treated seriously, and appropriate steps taken to safeguard students."

Late on Wednesday, Hayward confirmed that the Board of Trustees (BOT) became aware of the issue in 2015.

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"The BOT sought professional advice and guidance throughout to ensure proper and thorough processes were followed. A mandatory report was submitted  to the Education Council in 2015 following a formal investigation and the resignation of a staff member. The Principal and BOT chair spoke to the Council and the matter is in their hands. We are unable to say anything further while the Education Council's process is taking place."

The man described his relationships with students at length in a 2015 email to an ex-student following the investigation's start. Excerpts of his emails to her have been provided to Stuff by the student.

"It's very possible that I'm not really cut out for the job that I do. I get results by treating students as peers and expecting the same of a student that I would expect of any adult. […]  Expecting adult relations from students was woefully misguided on my part and probably, ultimately, dangerous and detrimental to the mental health of some." 

The ex-student, who wishes not to be named, said she had a close emotional relationship with the teacher while she was at the school, aged between 16 and 18. She was not the subject of the school's formal investigation, and is not the student who made the 2011 complaint.

The teacher made sexual jokes to her and other students, she alleges. He was not her teacher but created leadership positions that would guarantee close contact between the pair, and bought her a gift while overseas.

They emailed each other "long thousand word type" emails regularly, discussing personal issues alongside schoolwork. Excerpts from his emails to her follow.

"I'm glad you felt like you could trust me with this. I'm glad that you felt like there was someone in your life who you could say all of the things to."

"You are a person I want to talk to and a person whose opinion I want to hear. I have a lot of time for you and I hope that we'll be able to make that work next year, whether I teach you or not."

"[I]f there's something wrong with you, then there's something wrong with me too and we can both take solace in that little piece solidarity that we have between us."

One email was sent late at night while the teacher was overseas.

"I'm emailing you from my semi smashed iPhone a 3am [...] And I'm probably writing because I want to connect with something thst [sic] I like and that isn't shattered."

The large majority of these emails were sent on the school email system.

The ex-student said she felt damaged by the relationship.

"It was very disconcerting to find out that those two years were like a lie in a sense, you had been emotionally manipulated, you had been mentally manipulated," she said.

"It felt like he knew what he wanted to tell people, what he wanted to divulge and what he wanted to keep secret, the right amount of information to keep someone interested."

"How could he do that to people who are still developing? I'm completely different to who I was a year ago, two years ago, three years ago. He's going to be the same probably from now ... he's set in stone. We're still going through huge changes and he's sort of stunted that, he's wedged himself in and stopped us from becoming the people we could be."

The teacher has been approached for comment.

 - Stuff

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