Teacher-student affair all over the internet

By Miles Erwin

A 16-year-old student who ran off with her drama teacher after their four-month affair was discovered by students has been playing out the drama on the internet.

Luke McIndoe, a 24-year-old drama teacher at Wairarapa College, fled Masterton with Chelsea Havard, a student from his drama class, on February 21. The pair's relationship was discovered by other students - but, unwilling to face the music, they moved to Wellington where she's enrolled at Wellington High and he's playing in a band.

It is the fifth case of a teacher-student relationship made public in the past seven months - a number parent groups say is unacceptable.

Left in the wake of the modern-day elopement are Chelsea's family, her furious boyfriend Daniel Nixon and McIndoe's career. He's quit his job and it's unlikely he will ever teach again.

McIndoe and Havard refused to talk to the Herald on Sunday. But the drama has been played out on teen networking website Bebo. On Chelsea's blog, her spats with her younger sister and former boyfriend are there for all to see. Throughout the week, messages - often misspelled or in "text-speak" - went flying between Chelsea and her friends. Her blog has since been disabled.

Now ex-boyfriend Daniel Nixon has left scathing comments on her website. Chelsea's younger sister, Gemma, vented her anger on Bebo.

The web pages dramatically illustrate the pain to the Havard family. On the same page as Gemma's angry remarks are pictures of her and Chelsea in happier times. Further down is Chelsea's plea for forgiveness from her estranged sister.

Chelsea's parents, Andrew and Wendy-Ann declined to talk to the Herald on Sunday. But the family has apparently reconciled and her parents are funding her education.

As for McIndoe, he's playing with local band Lusapher.

He has resigned from the school, which has launched an investigation.

"[I'm] devastated actually. We're stunned. It's the first time in my career I've come across anything like this," said Wairarapa College principal Mike Schwass. He said McIndoe had not offered any explanation.

Advice service Parents Inc chief executive Bruce Pilbrow said teacher-student relationships were an "absolute no-go" area. "When kids are going through hormonal stages they're vulnerable and they don't know what they're getting into. As the adult the teacher needs to know this."

Parents had a right to assume their children were safe at school.

"Maybe we need to re-educate [teachers] and tell them - if you're a good teacher you walk into the classroom as a hero and you've got these kids with hormones running through them. If they do this they have to know they will never teach again."

But Secondary Teachers' Association head Graham Young said there was no need to change training. "It will always occur. We've got people who are not related to each other who are forming close relationships. That's crossing the line of behaviour. I don't think teacher training can do anything. How do you train a 24-year-old not to run away with a 16-year-old?"

Teachers' Council president Peter Lind said the cases were a tiny amount with 80,000 teachers in New Zealand. "The vast majority are acting appropriately. I think we've got a pretty robust system."

A teacher who was very popular with his students, it seems McIndoe will be missed at Wairarapa College. Last week students held protests yelling "bring back Mac" and tributes have been set up by his ex-students.

"There were good times a plenty with old MacAttack like ripping into unfortunate students . . . and having a few beers while at production rehearsal. These are times that alot [sic] of us will miss," said one post.

Schwass described the protests as "ill-informed".

The war of words

Posts on Chelsea's Bebo.com webpage showed bitter rifts with ex-boyfriend Daniel Nixon and her sister. Much of the exchanges are in text speak.

"I am so ashamed by what you have done. Everybody is talking about it and I can't belive you can do something like this and live with yourself and still be HAPPY... we all agree that HE has changed you. I think it's discusting what you have done and I am just as angry with him. I'm not going to talk to you after this ok?" Gemma Havard

"Your my sister. Please talk to me. I love you. i want to talk to you, and i kno deep down you want to talk to me - i want to keep you in my life nd take you out for coffee ... Please try to understand." Chelsea Havard
"How can we trust you now? And despite what you've done, your attitude and commitment to fixing your mistakes is... minimal... the relationship between you is still and always will just be an infactuation." Daniel Nixon

School scandals

* November 2006: A 30-year-old English teacher at Christ's College in Christchurch has an affair with an 18-year-old male student. She resigns when the affair is revealed.

* November 2006: Natasha Miller, 23, a relieving teacher at Pahiatua's Tararua College has an affair with 16-year-old Hayden Macdonald. They are still together.

* October 2006: A William Colenso College, Napier, teacher is fired for emotional attachment to a pupil.

* August 2006: Benjamin Manson Harvey, 31, of Gore High School is sentenced to 3 1/2 years' jail for an affair with a 15-year-old student.

* 2003: Tauranga schoolteacher Faryn Ripine Matthews, 35, admits having sex with a former pupil, 10. She was jailed for 4 1/2 years.

* 2001: Gemma Aspden is fired from Broadwood Area School for an affair with a 17-year-old pupil. They're together and have a child.

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