Should teachers be granted anonymity against claims of crimes against pupils?

This debate has become more important to many, given the recent media attention on Megan Stammers and her Maths teacher, Jeremy Forrest.

Teachers accused of committing criminal offences involving children at their school will be granted anonymity under regulations which come into force next week.

Whilst many accusations are found to be malicious, there are a number that are not. The difficulty comes because parents place a great deal of faith in teachers keeping their children safe. Once that faith is broken, the teacher is no longer capable of teaching in the same way towards those children.

There have been a lot of comments online regarding whether Forrest should be treated differently from “the normal man on the street” with regard to having a relationship with a girl of 15. Now, before I address the morality of a man of 30 having a relationship with a girl of 15, we should remember that parents place a lot of faith in teachers as stated above. Forrest was trusted by Megan Stammers’ parents and he has broken this trust. What lasting damage it will have done to the girl we’ll probably never find out. Simply put, Forrest was not in the same position as “the normal man on the street”, he was in a position of authority over Megan. Anyone who has taught has experience of the near awe that some teachers are held in, with regard to pupil’s opinions. Forrest was a more learned person, with a “cool” hobby; music. To a girl of that age he would quite likely seem sophisticated and powerful. Many women mention having had crushes on teachers whilst at school. This is normal and a natural part of the maturation process. Teachers should never have a relationship with a pupil, as the current education act requires them to avoid.

Morally, many are like myself and find it quite disturbing when we hear about a girl of 15 being in a relationship with a man twice her age. There is a level of near abuse in such a relationship due to different life experiences, as well as emotional maturity. Quite simply, such a relationship is morally wrong in any environment.

This all makes anonymity in regards to allegations a difficult decision. Even a false allegation of improper behaviour towards a teacher can wreck a career. At the same time, the protection of children should be upper-most, surely. So, where should the line be drawn? If the legislation is to work, systems need to be in place for schools to act swiftly and the police must decide whether to charge equally swiftly.

My trouble with this legislation comes from the accusation that under this act,

The accused teacher could be disciplined, sacked and move on, but unless they were charged with a criminal offence, no one could name them and the new school might not be allowed to know there had been a problem,…

As the Crown Prosecution Service might not have enough evidence to charge, allied with often poor motivation by the police and social services towards seeing under-age girls in a sexual relationship with an adult as being a victim, means that that if Satchwell is correct, a loop-hole exists that could mean a teacher who has been in a sexual relationship with a pupil could just move schools. Then possibly re-offend.

Most legislation is far from perfect, but you have to ask whether this one was rushed without proper indentification of the possible issues and their solutions.

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