Ex-Valley teacher’s ban following texts

A VALLEY School teacher who sent ‘sexually motivated’ emails and texts to a female pupil has been suspended from the classroom for a year.

Tuesday, 31st January 2012, 4:13 pm

Christopher Suter, was a history teacher at the school from September 1992 until he was dismissed in December 2010.

The General Teaching Council found Suter guilty of ‘unacceptable professional conduct’ with the pupil in May 2010.

The professional conduct committee said that on May 26th 2010 the girl - named only as Pupil G - told a staff member that Suter had been sending emails to her.

An investigation was launched during which her father provided copies of inappropriate emails and texts, a number of which were signed off with an ‘x’.

Committee chair Wayne Jones stressed that Mr Suter did not assault, touch or develop a sexual relationship with the pupil, or use sexualised language.

“In our view Mr Suter’s language in the messages becomes increasingly intimate, disclosing elements of his personal life and expressing his desire to meet with her on a personal level,” said Mr Jones.

“His communication sought to blur the distinction between personal and professional boundaries which it was Mr Suter’s responsibility to establish and maintain.”

He said that the messages were sent at a time of personal stress for Pupil G and evidence showed they made her feel uncomfortable and distressed.

The disciplinary committee said the emails, which Suter signed with the name ‘Pogle’ had become ‘increasingly intimate’.

Suter accepted he sent the messages to Pupil G and that he failed to maintain appropriate boundaries, but denied he had acted through sexual motivation and claimed that the ‘x’ was intended as a sign of support for the girl’s Christian faith.

But the committee chair disagreed, saying the symbol was clearly used to sign off the messages with a kiss.

Mr Jones said the messages showed a development in language that suggested Suter was “seeking to develop a closer, more intimate relationship with Pupil G.”

He used affectionate names for her, such as ‘Dreamer’ and ‘Cloud’, and referred to himself as ‘Pogle’.

In one email he wrote: “We can do something here if you want... whatever is best for you is best for me. Text me your number too... you’re so interesting!!!! Hummmmm!... Night Cloud, Pogle.”

In another he wrote: “I’m gonna take you there for a talk when you are brave enough to open the door further and make an effort to come and talk. You need to escape that little place of yours for a few hours and come to the mountains. Start to do some living. I know your spirit will approve. Trust me. I have trusted you... It felt strange passing you today. I feel frustrated that I can’t get anytime with you at the moment... I watched you walk away and wanted to run after you. Come and listen... Keep dreaming. It’s how I found you. Pogle x”

In a third, he wrote: “Good to see you again today. I’ve missed those eyes. Believe and take care Cloud.”

The committee concluded that the evidence suggested his underlying actions were sexually motivated.

They did, however, say Mr Suter was an experienced teacher with a number of strengths as a classroom practitioner who had no previous disciplinary proceedings against him.

The imposed a suspension order, banning him from working as a teacher for 12 months.

Suter can appeal to the High Court within 28 days.

Outwood Academy Valley declined to comment, because the incidents happened before the Academy trust took over the school.

A spokeswoman for Notts County Council Mr Suter would not automatically return to the school once the suspension expired.

“His employment ended with the county council in 2010,” she said.

“But in 12 months time it would be up to him whether he decided to apply for another job, and where.”