Teacher, 30, banned after swapping inappropriate messages with 17-year-old student

April 25, 2013 | by | 0 Comments

A teacher has been booted out of the profession after he exchanged a series of inappropriate messages with a teenage student.

Stephen Watson, 30, was caught by students who hacked into the 17-year-old girl’s emails and found messages the pair had sent each other.

The teen suggested kissing each other all over and also sent Watson a picture of herself in a state of undress.

Watson claimed when he started receiving messages of this kind, he tried to ignore her.

The teacher was deputy head of year at the time at Ridings’ Federation of Academies in Bristol between September 2011 and July 2012 when the incidents happened.

He was investigated by police who decided not to take any action against the business studies teacher.

But he was found guilty of  “unacceptable professional conduct” by a Teaching Agency disciplinary panel.

Education Secretary Michael Gove banned Watson from the classroom until April 2017.

Mr Gove said: “The allegations found proven by the Panel represent misconduct of a serious nature, falling significantly short of the standards expected of a teacher.

“Through his behaviour, Mr Watson has failed to observe proper boundaries appropriate to his professional position.

“He has also failed to have regard to the need to safeguard pupils’ well-being, in accordance with statutory provisions.

“Taking all the circumstances into account I support the Panel’s recommendation that a Prohibition Order is an appropriate and proportionate sanction.

“Whilst Mr Watson has co-operated with the process, nevertheless his behaviour has fallen well short of that expected of a member of the teaching profession.

“I agree the Panel’s recommendation that he should not be allowed to apply for the order to be reviewed until a minimum period of four years has elapsed.”

The disciplinary panel findings say that Watson admitted that he “engaged in an inappropriate relationship” with a 17 year old female student, named only as Pupil A.

This included inappropriate email communication with her.

Mr Watson also admitted he attempted to hide or conceal the relationship, which came to light after two male students from the Academy hacked into her email account and found messages between the pair.

The panel said that, in March 2012, Pupil A sent Watson a message which started “I am in love with you too” and ended with “I just wanted to give you a huge kiss and a cuddle after school”.

Watson claimed when he started receiving messages of this kind, he tried to ignore her.

Another email from Pupil A later the same month concluded: “So how exactly are we going to spend the day in bed on Monday?”

The panel said that Pupil A stated in interview that she did not recall why she said this, and Watson said he ignored this message and went to Bristol to get away from it.

In April, she wrote: “I just wanted to send you a message just to let you know that I wish you were here cuddling me right now, kissing me all over. And me doing the same to you. And then a nice cuddle, wearing nothing under a blanket”.

But Pupil A claimed “they are just words, nothing ever happened” and Watson continually denied that the emails contained any sexual connotations.

Recommending a Prohibition Order, the panel said: “The emails between Mr Watson and Pupil A disclose a completely unacceptable course of conduct by Mr Watson and the public would rightly be troubled by such behaviour.”

It added: “It is particularly disturbing that the course of the emails led to Mr Watson’s receiving an email from Pupil A on 6 April 2012 to which she attached a photograph of herself in her underwear or a swimsuit. That is consistent with the content of the emails between them.

“Teachers are in position of great responsibility and trust with regard to their students and Mr Watson breached that trust, not least by engaging in and encouraging a course of emails that resulted in Pupil A sending a picture of herself in a state of undress.”

It found not proved two further allegations of unacceptable professional conduct – that Watson failed to maintain appropriate boundaries with Pupil A during a New York Business studies trip and failed to report a potential safeguarding issue regarding Pupil A to the designated Child Protection Officers.

It said: “We can see no credible evidence or admission that anything untoward occurred on the trip, whatever rumour or innuendo followed it.”

The ban imposed on Watson means that he is prohibited from teaching in any school, Sixth Form College, relevant youth accommodation or children’s home in England.

And he cannot apply to be restored to the teaching register until April 2017. If he does then seek to return to teaching he will have to persuade a panel that he is fit to return to the classroom.

Watson has a right of appeal to the High Court.

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