Teacher became 'emotionally dependent' on pupil

By Patrice Dougan

A senior secondary school teacher sent "intense" text messages to a Year 12 pupil and crossing boundaries with her parents. Photo / 123rf.com
A senior secondary school teacher sent "intense" text messages to a Year 12 pupil and crossing boundaries with her parents. Photo / 123rf.com

A senior secondary school teacher became "emotionally dependent" on a Year 12 pupil, sending her "intense" text messages and crossing boundaries with her parents.

The woman, who was head of department at the school, admitted to having favourite pupils and failing to maintain appropriate boundaries with students.

The pupil, known as Student A in a decision published by the Education Council today, was granted name suppression. The identity of the teacher and school were also suppressed to protect the young woman, who has now finished school and moved to a different area.

The decision said the teacher had been warned about the nature of her relationship with a student early in her employment with the school, which started in 2002. By 2008 she was head of department, until she resigned in 2014.

During 2013 and 2014 she became emotionally dependent on Student A, the decision said, "in a way that was not appropriate and was damaging to her".

"Student A found the increasingly intense communication from the [teacher] difficult to cope with, and asked her parents to intervene.

"Despite being asked to desist by Student A's parents, the [teacher] continued to send her text messages of an intense and personal nature."

Text messages were also sent to the girl's parents late at night. The content of the text messages to the student and her parents were not revealed in the decision.

However, the teacher admitted she had engaged in communication which was inappropriate, and that she had turned to the girl for support when she should have sought professional help.

She accepted she had "inappropriately burdened herself" onto the pupil and her family.

The woman was struggling with depression and anxiety at the time, the disciplinary tribunal was told, which she blamed on overwork.

Her lawyer said she had since developed a set of coping strategies and a support network that would minimise the risk of repeat behaviour.

It was noted that the emotional attachment was not sexual in nature.

The disciplinary tribunal ruled the teacher's behaviour amounted to serious misconduct, and that it "adversely affected the wellbeing of one or more students and reflects adversely on her fitness to teach". It censured her, removed her from the teaching register and ordered that her behaviour was recorded on her file.

- NZ Herald

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