The NZ Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal has struck a teacher off for serious misconduct following an inappropriate relationship with a 16 year old student.  The inappropriate relationship started when he added the student as a friend on Instagram.  At the start the communications were about school work, however, they soon changed to being non-school related and occurred over several different digital media sites. 

The school Principal questioned the teacher about befriending the student on Instagram and the teacher lied to the Principal about the contact.  The teacher was also spoken to by the student’s mother who raised concerns about his behaviour.  Despite those two approaches the teacher continued to engage in texts and social media communications of an affectionate and inappropriate nature.

The teacher’s conduct then extended beyond social media to delivering a gift to her home without her parents’ knowledge.

The teacher also transported a different student to and from town late on a Saturday evening without the permission of the student’s caregiver. 

The Tribunal found that the teacher’s behaviour would have affected the wellbeing of the student and reflected adversely on the teacher’s fitness to practice and brought the teaching profession into disrepute.

The Disciplinary Tribunal commented on social media use in general and said that the use of social media to communicate with students when there was no professional reason to do so indicated an intention to form some form of relationship outside the professional one.

The use of social media happens to such a great extent in many people’s lives but teachers need to be particularly careful to avoid any inappropriate use of social media with their students.

Alan Knowsley
Education Lawyer