‘Extremely serious’ sexual misconduct by teacher uncovered

A teacher has had his registration cancelled after forming a sexual relationship with a pupil.

The relationship became so concerning, a group of fellow pupils wrote to their principal about it — but it was only referred to the Teaching Council after Facebook messages between the pair were discovered.

A complaint was later considered by the New Zealand Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal regarding the inappropriate relationship between the male teacher and a Year 13 pupil, which took place from March to September 2020.

The teacher admitted the relationship and accepted it amounted to serious misconduct.

The teacher’s name and any identifying details, including the name of the school, were suppressed, but details of the affair can be revealed after the tribunal released its decision.

The tribunal heard that closer contact between the pair began in 2018, when the pupil was in Year 11.

She and another pupil missed the bus for a field trip and the teacher offered them both a ride.

In 2019, when the pupil was in Year 12, she would spend time with the teacher before and after classes, although the teacher also worked with others.
She would also receive rides from the teacher to training close to the school, as she did not have a car.

The tribunal heard of other instances of contact outside of class between the pair in 2020, including a play fight at a pupil  retreat and playing cards alone together.

During that year, he was both her teacher and her sports coach.

In early March that year, a group of  Year 13 pupils wrote a letter expressing concern about the close relationship.

After a discussion between the teacher, the principal, and the school’s guidance counsellor, he apologised to the Year 13 class and requested that he was no longer called by his nickname. He also said he would not play games with pupils during lunch breaks, and he would refer them to other teachers for ongoing pastoral support.

He denied an inappropriate relationship with the pupil.

But by around May or June, the pair were exchanging Facebook messages describing their romantic feelings towards each other.

They began to meet outside the school in the mornings once a week to walk and talk together.

About a month later, the relationship became sexual.

In late August, the pupil’s friends started believing she was in a secret relationship, and they looked at her phone while she had left it charging.
They discovered Facebook messages between the pair.

They included one from the teacher saying ‘‘I love you forever’’, and another from him saying ‘‘We never expected our love to be this real, deep and everlasting either, we are just realising how much our love means’’.

Her friends contacted the principal, and the teacher admitted the relationship. He showed ‘‘clear distress and remorse’’, the tribunal heard.
It is understood he was married at the time of the relationship.

He resigned on September 1, 2020, and signed a voluntary undertaking not to teach.

The next day, the principal reported the matter to the Teaching Council.

The tribunal found that the teacher’s ‘‘extremely serious’’ conduct would have caused anxiety and upset among pupils, and particularly Year 13 pupils, during what was an already unsettling time due to Covid-19.

In her submission, the victim told the tribunal  she ‘‘was not coping well currently’’ and was ‘‘finding everything still difficult’’.

The tribunal was also concerned  the teacher had gone on to form an intimate relationship with the pupil following a meeting with the principal to discuss professional boundaries.

His conduct brought the teaching profession into disrepute, it found.

‘‘The conduct should never have occurred, and the tribunal was satisfied it diminished the reputation of the teaching profession.’’