EDUCATION authorities have suspended a Queensland high school teacher for a year after he covered up a female student’s suicide fantasies in order to preserve their intense emotional relationship.
The pair first bonded in 2007 when the teacher counselled the then Year 10 student on her personal troubles during school hours.
It ended a year later with the teacher, now 55, bombarding the girl with phone calls and messages sharing his own suicide fantasies and anxieties over his collapsing marriage.
When the girl began sharing her own suicidal thoughts with him in 2008, he told her not to use “the ‘s’ word” or he would have to report it to the principal.
The girl complained about the episode, sparking a departmental investigation and an application by the Queensland College of Teachers to deregister the public school teacher.
In a recorded interview with Education Queensland investigators, the teacher admitted he feared the girl would harm herself but declined to report it to the principal, school administrators or any other support agency.
The tribunal argued that the teacher’s determination to evade reporting requirements, including telling the girl not to use “the ‘s’ word”, demonstrated “recognition by the teacher of the seriousness of what was being discussed”.Queensland’s Civil and Administrative Tribunal said in approving the deregistration: “The teacher confirmed that during conversations he had told the student not to mention the ‘s’ word as he would have to report the risk of self-harm to the office.”
“The community would undoubtedly have expected more of a teacher in this teacher’s position particularly when dealing with a vulnerable student,” it said.
The tribunal ordered that the man, who started teaching in 1978, would be allowed to seek re-registration from October next year.
He must also convince a psychologist that he adequately grasps a number of concepts including the bounds of appropriate contact with students and the disproportionate power and influence adults wield over children.
The tribunal also made orders preventing the media from publishing the man’s identity since he had depression and the publicity “may exacerbate the teacher’s health difficulties and may have an adverse effect on his recovery”.
If you are depressed or contemplating suicide, help is available at Lifeline on 131 114.