Sunday, November 22, 2009

Teacher has baby with 17-year-old student

Teacher has baby with 17-year-old student - Sunday Star Times - By CATHERINE WOULFE - 22/11/2009

A 17-year-old secondary school student and his 26-year-old female teacher had sex - and a baby - after bonding when putting the school yearbook together.

The teacher tried to stop the incident going public to protect her now two- year-old child, but it came to light on Friday when the disciplinary tribunal of the Teachers Council released a copy of its decision on the teacher's future.

Names of teachers, any students involved, and their schools are always deleted from these decisions.

The tribunal has not stripped the teacher of her registration. Instead, it has indefinitely suspended her practising certificate. Before she is allowed back into the classroom, the teacher must show she has addressed ethical and professional issues around power relationships between teachers and students.

The decision is not clear on whether the teacher and student are still romantically involved, saying only that they "maintain a relationship as a result of their joint parenting of the child".

The decision says the teacher and student had sex once, after classes finished for the year but while the student - who was in his final year of school - was still technically enrolled.

The teacher told the tribunal that, at the time, her marriage had recently broken up which left her feeling "alone and unstable at the end of my first year of teaching". She said she had never taught the student she slept with, but became close to him when she was put in charge of organising the yearbook, with which he was helping.

The pair "became friendly" and had sex after the student sent the teacher a text message inviting her to come and pick him up.

The decision said the teacher had emphasised that the student was "very nearly eighteen".

She said she found out early the following year that she was pregnant but kept it secret for a short time. She agonised over whether to keep the baby and decided she would, but required psychological help during her pregnancy, which was "a difficult time".

The student had left the school by this point and the teacher continued to work there before taking maternity leave. "She told us how the student had at that time returned from a period overseas, been supportive and became involved with their child," the decision said.

The teacher then decided she had to tell the school who her baby's father was. Shortly after the baby was born, in late 2007, she visited the acting principal, explained the situation to him and resigned. "She described the consensual nature of the relationship and how both families were supportive," the decision said.

The teacher said she was not making any excuses for her behaviour, which she regretted and which "weighed heavily on her mind".

"In particular, she said that she regretted how her behaviour had put her career at risk. She told us of her passion for teaching . . . She told us that she believed she was a good teacher . . . She said that she had learnt her lesson."

By law, the school had to report the teacher to watchdog body the Teachers Council. However, the acting principal told the council he thought censure - a type of formal warning that let teachers keep working - would be sufficient penalty.

The tribunal thought this an "unusual degree of leniency" and suspended the teacher's practising certificate, as well as censuring her and making her pay $1000 costs to the council. It refused her request to stop media from publishing the fact that the couple had a baby.

The teacher is now a fulltime mother surviving on the domestic purposes benefit and is living with her parents.

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