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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 October, 2004, 09:36 GMT 10:36 UK
Classroom affairs
By Denise Winterman
BBC News Online Magazine

Teachers are not trained to deal with students who are sexual predators, says a new book. But when the classroom is swapped for the bedroom, life can get extremely complicated, as a teacher and former pupil write here.

Teachers are sent into the classroom ill-equipped to deal with flirtatious students or pupils who genuinely believe they have fallen in love with them, says a new book.

It is becoming a much more common problem as sexual sophistication and knowledge increase among young people, says Kate Meyers - author of Teachers Behaving Badly?

It is wrongly assumed that, because of their age, authority and experience, teachers always hold power in relationships with pupils, she says. They are often bullied by predatory students and the victims of malicious and false allegations of sexual abuse.

The amendment of the Sexual Offences Act last year made it a criminal offence for a teacher to have sexual relations with a pupil under 18, but despite the serious consequences it happens.

Here a teacher and former pupil who have been involved in such relationships speak about their experiences. Names have been changed.

The teacher

Amanda is a 33-year-old secondary school teacher. She had a six-month affair with a 16-year-old male student when she was 24.

The pupil

Rebecca had a nine-month affair with a 33-year-old male teacher at her secondary school when she was 16. Now 30, she is a publisher.

THE TEACHER

Young people mature at different rates. The student I had a relationship with might have been 16 at the time, but he was mature mentally and physically. It was hard to think of him as a boy.

In my case I didn't feel I was taking advantage of anyone, it was an equal relationship
Amanda
The relationship started on a school trip. You get to interact with students on a different level when you are away from day-to-day school life and boundaries can get blurred.

I was pursued by him and didn't make the first move, but I didn't try too hard to stop what was happening. After we were back at school he repeatedly pestered me to meet him socially and I eventually did because I was attracted to him.

I would call it a relationship because it was more than just sex. We never went out in public but would meet at my flat. We got on and had a laugh. We talked and got to know one another.

He met my friends. Some of them were uncomfortable with the situation but were more concerned about the position I was putting myself in rather than taking any moral stance. They weren't teachers and once they met him it was easy for them to forget he was a pupil because he came across as so much older.

Books
Criminal record checks are carried out on all teachers
I didn't teach him directly, so avoiding him at school wasn't too hard. He was aware of what would happen if we were found out, especially to me. I know I was lucky he didn't tell his friends, but to me that shows he was mature enough to understand what he was doing and the consequences.

The relationship happened shortly after I had been through a messy break-up with an older - supposedly more mature - man. It sounds stupid but the relationship with my student seemed less complicated. In reality I was in something that could have become very complicated, but at the time I didn't really think about that.

The relationship eventually fizzled out during the summer when I went away on holiday and he left school. I don't see him at all now but know he has gone on and got a good job. I don't think he was adversely affected by our relationship.

I know sexual relationships between teachers and students are viewed as wrong and totally agree they can be an abuse of power. But in my case I didn't feel I was taking advantage of anyone, it was an equal relationship. However, I would not do it again.

THE PUPIL

My affair with my music teacher started two weeks after my 16th birthday. Months before he was hinting about the way he felt but waited until I had reached the age of consent before starting a sexual relationship. He was very calculated.

We would meet in his office, in the music room and at his home when his flatmate was out for the night. I knew at the time it was not a full, rounded relationship but I really believed something would come of it and thought I was in love.

There have been many times over the years when I have felt like reporting him, but even now I don't want to put my parents through that as they would be very upset
Rebecca
I was totally inexperienced and had only kissed one boy before him. That made things easier for him as I put no pressure on him to give me anything more emotionally or finish with his girlfriend. I was very naive and was just grateful for the little time I had with him.

When we were together he would say things to make me feel as if I had engineered the affair. He would ask me why I was 'doing this' to him. He was very manipulative. A few people suspected our relationship but we weren't found out. Things fizzled out when I left the school after my GCSEs.

Looking back now I do feel abused by him. Although I consented to the sexual relationship it was a total abuse of power on his part. I don't dwell on it as it still makes me angry, I prefer to think of it as a character-building experience. That's the way I cope.

Pupil
The NASUWT wants anonymity for teachers accused of abuse
There have been many times over the years when I have felt like reporting him, but even now I don't want to put my parents through that as they would be very upset. In that sense he is still wielding some power over me.

He is now a head teacher at another school. I don't know if he has had an affair with any other students, but it does worry me. I am a very sorted person, I dealt with what happened and it has not affected my life. If I had been a more vulnerable person it might have been a different story.

Have you had similar experiences? Who do you think was to blame? Add your comment using the form below.

When a 32 year old, I stupidly fell for an 18 year old student's advances. She was calm, calculating, very mature and incredibly sexually experienced for someone her age but somehow incredibly mixed up and insecure but I didn't find this out till later. Eventually when I tried to back out from seeing her she began threatening me with all sorts - that she'd inform the school, the police, her parents and friends, that I raped her. It became so much that I had to leave the profession altogether.
Bill, UK

As an "adult" the teacher should always know the boundaries. These are school children. The operative word being "children". These parents are entrusting their children to the school to be taught not abused, seduced etc. It is a complete lack of common sense on these teachers behalf that creates this kind of situation. This also gives an ok to some of the sick people who will see this as consent to abuse children and get away with it. Completely irresponsible.
Chloe, Manchester UK

I have just being reading the Teacher/Pupil stories and I must stress to the pupil that she must come forward if she knows this man is still teaching. What if he goes to someone under aged or goes further and hurts them, I am sure she would never forgive herself. This man must be stopped and shouldn't be teaching.
Debbie, West Midlands.

I had a sexual relationship with a male P.E teacher when I was 17 and he was 25. I feel I am as much to blame for the relationship as he was. I was going out into town with my friends and felt very confident and mature, even now looking back I clearly was not. Sometimes we just have to learn from our own mistakes and not look for someone to blame.
Anon, Bedfordshire

Clearly, it was the teachers at fault. They were the adults in the relationship and should have known better, they should have said NO. Being a parent myself, articles such as these worry me to death for the future of my child, whether the affects of the teachers actions have dented their students lives or not!
Amanda , Newcastle, UK

From the way the article is written, if a female teacher has an affair with male pupil its a happy consenting, equal relationship. If a male teacher has an affair with a female pupil its because he's some kind of predator. Either way its still a betrayal of trust.
Richard Stockley, Sheffield

Who was to blame? The teacher, always the teacher. It's irrelevant whether the pupil is over the age of consent or not as it is an abuse of power. Of course it's not an equal relationship - how can it be? I've been a private teacher/tutor for over 30 years, teaching all ages from 4 to 84, and it's perfectly clearcut. You do not date your pupils, no matter what age, no matter how attractive - while you're teaching them they're off limits.
Clare Redfarn, London, UK

When I was at school, there was a teacher who had previously formed a relationship with a pupil when he was teaching at another school. By the time he had moved to our school she was his wife and as far as I know she still is. So I suppose it can all work out happily in the end.
B , UK

I'm a teacher in a South London school. It's a fact that many 16 year old girls think a young male teacher is fair game, and it can be very difficult to balance a genuine and proper interest in the children in your class, with an appropriate "warning-off" signal to such girls. Children can also be manipulative, and they DO threaten teachers with "I'll report you for touching me" in order to save face. The NASUWT are right that teachers need anonymity in such cases.
Finlay, London, UK

Personally I think that no matter how "mature" a student is or how much they "know" what they are doing, it just shouldn't happen, end of story. There's no way in the world I would risk the best career and job in the world for a fling with a student. Teachers who do this and break the law frankly deserve the full extent of the law brought down upon them. I do however think that it becomes more of a "grey area" at a sixth form college but should never happen in a secondary school.
G Stevens, Mexico City (UK Teacher working overseas)

Why is that if a man abuses his power to sleep with a schoolgirl it is deemed far worse by society than if a female teacher abuses her power to sleep with a schoolboy. Is it because a female girls' hormones raging around are just temporary and she will eventually mature? I'm not condoning either but surely both, young females and males are just as sexually naive and hormonally sensitive as each other.
JB, Coventry, UK

Does it work the same for doctors or social workers? Would people think it was ok for them to have sex with their 16 year old clients? Why do some teachers insist that they have no professional standards?
austin, Glasgow

So everyone writing feedback here, think back to when you were 16 and what you were like? Ever fancy a teacher? Course you did, if you had the opportunity to act out your fantasies about that teacher, you would have. The question is whether it is an abuse of power, not about the fact a 16 year old is having (in the majority of cases) consensual sex. If this 16 year old came from a different school, met, and had consenting sex, with a pupil from a different school, is it as bad?
AK, Brighton, England

There is NEVER any excuse for this behaviour. I work with university students and the same situation applies. Any "affair" with a student is a total abuse of your position. Indeed, it is classified as gross misconduct (quite rightly so) in my contract.
Anon, Edinburgh

I don't think it is perceived differently if the teacher is female. In fact if anything women are usually expected to have relationships with older men. The Australian teacher who was taken to court a couple of years ago was demonised (not that she shouldn't have been). I knew very well that a male teacher was seeing a 17-year-old friend of mine when I was school and I know for a fact that the head did too. Nothing was ever done about it.
Cat, Wales

When I was a 14-year old boy a female teacher of about 30 made repeated and determined sexual advances to me. I found it terrifying, but was far too frightened to report it, or even to tell my parents. From the two cases on this webpage it seems just as well, as clearly I should have been 'mature' enough to 'know' when I was onto a good thing! When will we get rid of this complete double-standard concerning women teachers and school-children? A predatory woman teacher is every bit as possible and reprehensible as a predatory male teacher; indeed they may well be more likely to get away with their abuse of power!
Anon, Malta

i find it extremely disturbing that the female teacher believes that her relationship with a student was justifiable because he was 'mature'. the fact is that any person below the age of 18-20 is still struggling with adolescence and hormones and all of the other feelings associated with this crucial time in a young persons life. maturity therefore must be the responsibility of the person in whose care the young person is. i think it is utterly incomprehensible.
anon, middlesbrough

"Rebecca's" story is very similar to my own, as I turned 16, I too had a 'thing' with a teacher who was 24 years my senior. It's only as I've got older and learnt more about the predatory nature of certain individuals, that I realise that I may well have been the willing victim of an abuser. What at the time seemed like the most romantic and thrilling of relationships, may well have simply been the result of one man's sordid fantasy of grooming an underage girl. Looking back I am very uneasy about it all but I'm unwilling to become a victim of something I can't be sure of.
Amy, Leamington

I think that while teachers are as adults, responsible for their actions, there is an enormous amount of pressure put on them, especially as the mere mention of any sexual contact or mere physical contact, whether it is true or not can mark your career. There are a lot of young people who know very well how to be manipulative, and use their knowledge. We must protect children, of course, but the teachers also need protection, and in my experience, having been a teacher for nearly 20 years, there is more chance of a false accusation against a teacher than actual abuse.
PJ, Barcelona

The stories show only the female view of this issue. It could be useful to see two different male stories both a teacher's and a pupil's.
Ondrej, Prague/ Czech Republic

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