Welwyn Garden City teacher banned from the profession after ‘inappropriate’ emails

Monk's Walk School. Picture: Danny Loo

Monk's Walk School. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Archant

A Welwyn Garden City teacher has been banned from teaching indefinitely following a professional conduct hearing.

Monk's Walk School. Picture: Danny Loo

Monk's Walk School. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Archant

James South, 28, who had been teaching at Monk’s Walk School from September 2013 to December 2016, was found to have had “inappropriate” communication with a pupil.

The National College for Teaching and Leadership panel heard how on November 18 in 2016, a pupil at the school reported to the Student Support Officer that Mr South was having “an inappropriate relationship with a friend of hers”, referred to as Pupil A throughout the report.

The pupils concerned were interviewed and Mr South was suspended.

The matter was reported to the police.

Although the police conducted an investigation, they took no further action.

The school then conducted an investigation under its disciplinary procedure.

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During the course of the school’s investigation, emails between Mr South and Pupil A were examined and interviews were undertaken with Mr South, Pupil A and other pupils.

The panel found that Mr South communicated with Pupil A via her school email account and that messages were of an inappropriate nature.

Mr South admitted that he communicated with Pupil A via her email account on a number of occasions.

He also accepted that, between August 12 2016 and September 2 2016 he sent a number of emails from his school email account to Pupil A’s school email account.

He admitted that he emailed Pupil A on approximately 30 occasions after 9pm.

Mr South also admitted that between September 2 2016 and November 20 2016 he sent a number of emails to Pupil A, using her password to access her email account.

In the report, it states: “The panel’s view is that the aim of this was to hide the number of messages they were sending each other.”

Mr South stated in evidence that he “appreciated the inappropriate nature of his method of communication with Pupil A, yet he was unable to articulate or justify why he had continued the communications and what his underlying motivation had been”, the panel’s report noted.

The report continued: “This lack of self-awareness and disregard for professional boundaries caused the panel a lot of concern.”

Mr South admitted that he encouraged Pupil A to meet with him on one or more occasions, but said it was for revision purposes.

One allegation was that Mr South had kissed Pupil A, but the panel concluded that the evidence was not sufficient to find the facts proved.

Another allegation was that Mr South had given Pupil A a lift, but again, this was not proved.

He was accused of discussing her Instagram account and/or a photo she was in, but this was not proved.

The panel considered whether Mr South’s conduct was sexually motivated.

The report notes: “Whilst his actions were inappropriate and showed a complete disregard for professional boundaries, the panel was not satisfied that the communications were of a sexual nature nor that the evidence was sufficient to establish sexual motivation on the part of Mr South.”

Mr South admitted that he failed to report safeguarding concerns to a Designated Safeguarding Lead and on the School’s safeguarding reporting system relating to Pupil A with regards to mental health.

Mr South admitted that he had acted dishonestly and “demonstrated a lack of integrity in that he attempted to conceal the fact that he had been in communication with Pupil A by accessing her email account in order to send her messages and deleting emails he had exchanged with Pupil A from his email account”.

The panel did however note Mr South “was motivated by a desire to help a vulnerable pupil who was struggling at school”.

Mr South “allowed his professional judgment to be compromised, causing him to overstep professional boundaries and seek to hide his actions in a dishonest way”, the report noted.

The panel was also presented with a number of positive references, including two from former colleagues and one from a parent.

“These clearly indicate potential to make a valuable contribution to the profession and the panel recognised his enthusiasm for and

personal commitment to teaching”, the panel noted.

Mr South was banned from teaching indefinitely on March 20. He has the right to appeal within 28 days.