Sunday 27 May 2018

'Over-familiar' teacher banned from classroom after spending night in hotel room with pupil

Downend School Credit: Google Maps
Downend School Credit: Google Maps

Rod Minchin

A teacher who allowed a pupil to share her hotel room after a school prom has been banned from the classroom.

Rebecca Lacey, 28, was "over-familiar" with the Year 11 student (aged 15 or 16) at Downend School in Bristol at the end of year prom in 2014.

Miss Lacey then invited the "vulnerable" pupil to her hotel room where they spent the night talking before she dropped him off near his home the following morning.

The ICT teacher was accused of "failing to maintain proper professional boundaries" on the evening of the school's Year 11 prom, which was being held in a hotel.

She was also accused of "over guiding" students taking the OCR ICT exams, which resulted in the coursework of 50 pupils being rejected and them not receiving the qualification.

A hearing of the National College for Teaching and Leadership was told that Miss Lacey, who taught at the school from September 2010 to March 2015, admitted the allegations and accepted her conduct may bring the teaching profession into disrepute.

When initially quizzed by senior staff about the hotel room incident, on three occasions she denied it had happened.

The professional conduct panel found Miss Lacey had committed a "gross error of judgment" and recommended she should be banned from teaching indefinitely, but could apply for the ban to be lifted after two years.

In a written response to the allegations, Miss Lacey explained that in inviting the student to her room - known as Pupil A - she now realises that in hindsight she handled the situation in a way that was not appropriate, but says that she was "concerned for the safety and wellbeing" of the student.

The hearing was told that Miss Lacey's actions were not sexually motivated and no sexual encounter took place in the hotel room between her and the boy.

"Miss Lacey says that she was concerned for his welfare, she intended to act in his best interests and discharge her duty of care towards him," the panel concluded.

"She says they spent the night talking. He had appeared anxious and most of the discussion concerned his personal family problems.

"She accepts that she should have reported what she had done but failed to do so. She was anxious about making the disclosure and afraid of the potential repercussions.

"In the judgment of the panel, this episode does constitute both unacceptable professional conduct and conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute.

"Even accepting Miss Lacey's explanation and motivation for allowing Pupil A to stay overnight in her hotel room, she made a gross error of judgment and failed to demonstrate the high standards of personal and professional conduct required.

"She clearly failed to observe the professional boundaries that should, at all times, govern the relationship between a teacher and pupil - the more so where the teacher is aware that the pupil concerned is properly described as vulnerable."

A Department for Education official endorsed the panel's recommendation banning Miss Lacey from teaching for at least two years.

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