Ex-teacher’s role subject to review

Blake Luff
Blake Luff
The Alexandra Musical Society is to discuss the future of its president after it became public knowledge yesterday that he had lost his teacher registration after he had an inappropriate relationship with a student he coached in a sports team.

Blake Luff, from Alexandra, was head of the physical education department at Lawrence Area School in Otago when he started the relationship with a year 13 pupil in the middle of last year, the Education Council said.

Mr Luff sent the girl flirtatious messages, arranged to meet her then tried to get the girl to lie that they never had.

"I wish I could take you to the hot pools . . . It would be super romantic," Mr Luff texted the girl.

"Once I got to know you I found out how amazing you are and your strength but also how vulnerable you are. I think you’re an amazing person and want to show you that.

"I’m nice to everyone, well I try to be, but your special [sic], we get along great and I love talking to you."

Mr Luff was 25 at the time and the volleyball and basketball coach for the Southern Regional Team. The girl was in the teams but studied at another school.

After a school sports competition the pupil sent Mr Luff a Facebook friend request and they began messaging on Facebook, Snapchat and via text. Pupils knew they were texting and Mr Luff was seen with the pupil in his car.

Mr Luff was warned by the principal at his school to maintain a professional boundary but instead conspired to be "more subtle and discreet" in his contact with the girl.

He continued to prolifically message her on social media, with content of an intimate nature and late at night, and kept meeting her.

When the girl’s mother intervened, Mr Luff tried to get the pupil to lie that they had not met. He also told her when she had finished her schooling "no-one will care".

The New Zealand Teachers’ Disciplinary Tribunal found Mr Luff’s behaviour amounted to serious misconduct and "bears the hallmarks of sexual grooming". His attempt to have the pupil collude with his dishonesty was an aggravating feature and proved he knew the relationship was wrong.

It was likely to have adversely affected the learning or wellbeing of the pupil, the tribunal found. It had a negative impact on Mr Luff’s fitness to teach and brought the teaching profession into disrepute.

The tribunal said Mr Luff had a responsibility to maintain professional boundaries.

"Students should be free from any type of exploitation, harassment or emotional entanglement with teachers."

His registration was cancelled.

He has since moved back to Alexandra, where he works as a heat pump installer, and was made the youngest president of the Alexandra Musical Society in June this year.

Mr Luff has had executive roles before, as recreation officer on the Otago University Students’ Association student executive in two terms, from 2011-13.

He was deputy head boy of Dunstan High School in 2008.

Alexandra Musical Society co-vice-presidents Trevor Goudie and Ann Jones said they were organising a meeting and would issue a press release in the next few days.

Mr Luff, now 27, declined to comment when he was contacted by the Otago Daily Times.

Lawrence Area School principal John Auld also declined to comment.

- NZME and Tom Kitchin

Add a Comment