The Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal has censured a male teacher after it was discovered that he had inappropriate relationships with two underage students. These reports are an unpleasant reminder of the importance of having a robust disciplinary process in the workplace.

In 2019, the teacher worked at a girls’ high school whilst also being a live-in house tutor at their brother school. After the brother school was alerted to inappropriate messages that were sent to a young girl who worked part-time for a contractor at the school, the teacher was spoken to about his behaviour, but no further action was taken.

 A month later, the teacher was exposed by two other staff members for having an inappropriate relationship with another one of his students at the girls’ high school. While the concerns were flagged with the school, he was permitted to continue with his job as a live-in house tutor.

During an investigation launched by the girls’ high school, the teacher quit their job. While an investigation was conducted into this behaviour at the girls’ high school, there was a six-month delay in the matter being flagged with the Teaching Council because the principal mistakenly sent a mandatory report to the wrong email address. During this six month delay, the teacher became employed at another high school. It is understood that when referee checks were undertaken, his previous inappropriate conduct was not discussed.

When the Teaching Council received the report, it did not seek to suspend the teacher or ask him to voluntarily stop teaching. However, he was told he had to notify his employer and any prospective employer that he was under investigation. This means that during the investigation conducted by the Teaching Council, he was able to continue teaching underage children.

This is a reminder of the importance of having a thorough internal investigation process for allegations of serious misconduct. Particularly, in situations which involve power dynamics with a vulnerable person inherent in a educational environment. Upon any allegations of inappropriate behaviour, it is important to conduct a thorough investigation as soon as possible.

If there are concerns that a teacher is involved in an inappropriate relationship with a student, it is wise to speak with a professional experienced in this area to ensure that the correct protocol is being followed.  

 

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Alan Knowsley and Charlotte Cameron

Wellington