Teacher who gave student phone and took him home denies inappropriate relationship
A teacher denied an inappropriate relationship with his year 12 student at a school in South Auckland in 2019. Image / 123RF
A teacher who allegedly put his finger in the top of a student’s pants, took her to the beach in his van, invited her to a concert and drove to her house where they were alone, denied having had an inappropriate relationship with the girl.
“She was just a student who wanted a lot of attention,” the man said during a hearing before the Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal on Thursday.
The registered teacher denied caring for the pupil, who was in Year 12 at a school in South Auckland in 2019 when the relationship developed.
The teacher is accused of committing serious misconduct by entering into an inappropriate relationship with the girl.
The court heard he offered the girl a ride home from school events, bought her food and jewelry, shared pizza with her at her house, spent time alone with her and allegedly physically affected.
Counsel for the Teaching Council’s Complaints Assessment Committee, Claire Paterson, suggested these were clear signs of early grooming behaviour; hesitant touching, hot and cold behaviors and gift buying.
“I’m still not ready to accept that I entered into an inappropriate relationship with this student,” the teacher replied.
The man said he became a teacher because he wanted to “give something back”.
“I wanted to give students as many opportunities as I had. I want to leave a legacy behind.”
He denied ever having private outings with the student, giving gifts, having dinner together or any physical contact.
However, he admitted to driving the student home alone, entering her family’s house and giving her a cell phone.
Chief Justice Theo Baker asked the teacher why he had the girl’s number in his phone.
The teacher said it was because she always disappeared at school camps.
Call and SMS logs showed that the student and teacher were in regular contact. One text included the teacher asking the student what she did after school.
He admitted that now, looking at the evidence, he could see how he crossed certain boundaries, but at the time he didn’t think those actions would be considered boundary crossing.
The teacher admitted to not properly reading a guide given to him by the school.
The manual contained crucial information with detailed rules regarding communication with students.
Paterson asked the teacher why he thought he didn’t need to read the textbook, especially since it was his first teaching job.
“I would have flipped through to read the pay and leave section,” he replied.
Earlier in the hearing, the court heard that the teacher had offered to take the teenager to a Metallica concert.
The pupil’s grandmother said the teacher offered the teenager a spare ticket to attend the concert with him, his friends and his girlfriend.
“I told him about it,” the grandmother said. “He told me the ticket was for a friend who could no longer attend.”
The grandmother paid the teacher $170 but never received the ticket.
The teacher’s lawyer, Dzinta King, said her client would refund the money.
The man claimed that the student asked to attend the concert with him.
“I didn’t see anything wrong with that and asked her to check with her grandmother first,” he said. “His grandmother and I then exchanged phone numbers to discuss it further.”
The grandmother also told the court that she and her husband came home one evening to find the teacher alone in their house with their granddaughter.
“It was around 8:30 p.m. I remember noticing the curtains were drawn. It was strange because we never drew the curtains. We lived in a back part. No one could see into our house.”
She said her granddaughter lied to the couple, telling them her teacher took her home after kickboxing.
Instead, the court heard the teacher and pupil spent the evening together at home and drove to get pizza for dinner – allegations the teacher denied.
“I remember my husband and I argued about it,” the grandmother said.
“He said to me, ‘What is his teacher doing here at this time of night?’.”
The grandmother told the court that the regular appearance of gifts including jewelry, posters and a mobile phone from the teacher added to her suspicions about the nature of the relationship.
“When you start putting everything together all of a sudden, it starts to get very concerning.”
The principal told the court that the school had discouraged teachers from taking pupils home and, if necessary, “we ask the pupil to come up to the back”.
“We discuss this at the start of each year and I remind teachers throughout the year to maintain professionalism at all times.”
The two-day hearing has concluded and a decision is expected following submissions from attorneys on June 3.