Teacher-Pupil Relationships: there’s no such thing as ‘consent’

The national news and media seems to be publishing more and more stories about teachers abusing their position and embroiling themselves in underage sexual relationships with pupils.

Schools become automatically liable for the sins and misdeeds carried out by teaching staff either during the course of their employment or if there can be a ‘close connection’ established.

Dr John Wunderle, who taught at Bancroft School in Woodford Essex, is the latest teacher to be convicted and has been jailed for four years for having a sexual relationship with a 15-year old pupil.

This follows a number of similar instances, the most prominent being that of teacher Jeremy Forrest who fled the country with a 15-year-old pupil in 2012.

Pupils cannot ‘consent’ to their teacher’s abuse

Wunderle abused his position of trust and took advantage of a vulnerable 15-year old pupil.

It is understood that the girl believed at the time that she was in love and that all sexual activity was consensual - but that now she realises that Wunderle, her teacher, manipulated her.

In situations such as this the school, as well as the teacher, may be liable for civil claims made for compensation as the result of a teacher-pupil relationship.

A school’s responsibilities to protect pupils from abuse

Schools owe pupils a duty of care - to look after their health, safety and well-being - and they may be found negligent if they allow a teacher-pupil relationship to arise.

Further to this, a teacher who abuses a pupil during the course of their job or during a closely connected activity automatically makes their employers liable.

The abuse does not have to take place during school hours or on school premises. It can be on school excursions or trips, during after-school activities run by the school or during after-school tuition.

What to do if you have had a relationship with your teacher

If you are, or were, a minor who was involved in a relationship with a teacher, you may be able to bring a civil claim.

This is regardless of how you felt about the relationship at the time. If it can be proved that the teacher’s actions caused you psychiatric harm, you have a civil compensation case.

As well as damages, the claim can include payments for specialist therapy if you need it.



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