Teacher faked cancer to get close to student's mum

KATIE KENNY
Last updated 20:01 18/03/2014

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A teacher who pretended to be dying of cancer to form an inappropriate relationship with a student's mother has been de-registered by the Teachers' Disciplinary Tribunal.

In a decision published today, the tribunal censured the female teacher, cancelled her registration, and ordered her to pay 40 per cent of the complainant's costs.

The decision said she abused her position as a headmistress and a classroom teacher to pursue an inappropriate and abusive relationship with a female pupil, with the intention of fostering an intimate relationship with the pupil's mother.

The tribunal has suppressed the identities of all involved.

In June 2012 the teacher met with her "crush" – a year 13 student's mother - and the student, to tell them both she was dying of cancer, the tribunal's decision said.

For seven months she "maintained and embellished" lies about terminal bladder and lung cancer to get sympathy and attention from the student and the student's mother.

The teacher told the student she loved her, and had chosen to seek treatment for her sake, the decision said.

During school time the teacher would text the student, confide in her, and speak about suicide.

She would harm herself - including overdosing and causing her throat to bleed - in order to elicit physical comfort and, in one case, resuscitation.

The student and her mother stayed at the teacher's house overnight two or three times a week "to look after her over a period of many months due to the severity of her illness", the decision said.

During this time, the women sometimes slept in the same bed.

The teacher was charged by the Complaints Assessment Committee for engaging in serious misconduct and psychological abuse of a student.

She was also charged with bringing discredit to her profession, in that she lied during her interview with the college and accepted her position under false pretences.

The teacher was a senior college headmistress at one school from November 2009 until December 12, 2012.

She then got the position of deputy principal of another college until February 4, 2013.

A psychiatric report diagnosed her with factitious disorder - a mental disorder characterised by falsifying sickness, not for concrete benefit but for special attention.

The decision said: "Any contact [the teacher] had with [the student] was driven by her desire and attempts to obtain a closer relationship with [the mother]".

It said the teacher accepted the charges, and admitted she had not sought treatment.

She said she "developed a crush" on the mother in late 2011, telling herself: "Don't do this, don't do this, it's the end of everything". She then went ahead to create the elaborate story of her failing health.

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The decision said the teacher traumatised the student by lying, and re-traumatised her with the truth.

The student and her mother wanted the tribunal's decision to identify the teacher for the sake of public interest and because the names of those involved were already published online.

The council disagreed, saying this was a case "tinged with great sadness".

- This article has been amended from an earlier version which contained inaccuracies.

- Stuff

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