Teacher who said pupil had 'massive' breasts avoids ban

Science teacher who tapped pupil's bottom with rolled-up papers and told her he missed her 'magic fingers' can stay in profession

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A teacher who told a pupil that she had "enormous" breasts and said he was "distracted" by her short skirt has escaped a ban from the profession.

Stephen Lindridge, a former science teacher at Anthony Gell School, a comprehensive in Derbyshire, had told the girl that she "had 'massive tits' or words to that effect with reference to an image of her on his mobile phone," a Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) panel has found.

He was also found guilty of engaging in "inappropriate physical contact" with the pupil by hugging her and kissing her cheek, head and neck.

However, while the panel agreed that Mr Lindridge "clearly overstepped boundaries", it did not consider his actions to be "sexually motivated".

The panel decided the science teacher should not be banned from the profession because he was "genuinely remorseful for his behaviour", consistent in his evidence and admitted unacceptable conduct from the outset.

It also noted that he had a "previously good history", "achieved good results" and was considered "very hardworking" and "caring". 

The investigation into Mr Lindridge's conduct was opened after the pupil in question confided in him about a serious safeguarding issue through a social media platform.

As a result of this, and information gathered by the National Citizen Service while the pupil was on a residential course, the school investigated the relationship between the pair. This resulted in Mr Lindridge being dismissed from the school.

The science teacher admitted to a number of allegations, including swapping mobile numbers with the pupil; requesting or allowing her to set up Snapchat on his phone; commenting that she had "'massive tits' or words to that effect"; engaging in "inappropriate physical contact" with her; and touching her bottom with "rolled-up papers".

Mr Lindridge said he commented on the girl's breasts after she took a photograph on his phone without his knowledge, and then asked him to look at the image.

He explained: "The picture was taken from stomach height angled upwards, so the lower half of the picture was much bigger than the top half…I laughed and said it wasn’t her best look.

"She asked what I meant and I said: 'Your head is tiny, your breasts look enormous and I can see up your nostrils'."

Responding to the allegations of inappropriate physical contact, Mr Lindridge said he "regularly hugged pupils".

He said: "I would tell [the pupil] how proud I was of her as I was impressed with the positive turn around in her attitude and focus, and I gave her a peck on the cheek and hug, simultaneously."

He added: "These were not individual kisses, but part of a hug and a kiss on the cheek at the same time…Sometimes I was sitting down when [the pupil] gave me a hug; [in] these instances, the peck hit her neck or head."

The panel found that Mr Lindridge's behaviour was "inappropriate", and he had "crossed boundaries" by treating the girl as a "friend".

Although he did not initially recall tapping the pupil on the bottom, Mr Lindridge later confirmed that, on one occasion, "I hurried her out the door by tapping her on the bottom with the rolled-up papers…telling her to 'get out of here, cheeky'."

The teacher also admitted to sending the girl a series of inappropriate messages over text or Snapchat, including: "love you loads and loads xx xx xx"; "you had a very big impact on me"; "why did I get so distracted when you were sat in front of me in a short skirt having just taken your tights off!"; "you need to change your perfume. Men clearly can't help themselves around you"; "maybe I only miss your magic fingers"; "morning beautiful"; and "Mmmwwaa x".

A witness, Mrs Lindridge, explained to the panel that the teacher was "always adding kisses to texts", and said "Mmmwwaa" was part of his normal messaging behaviour.

It was noted that the comment about "magic fingers" was in reference to a joke between himself and the pupil, that on one occasion his "knees stopped hurting" after she briefly touched his knee.

The science teacher was also found guilty of asking the girl to delete his messages from her phone. However, the panel decided that he did not act with dishonest intent, as he had misunderstood "management instruction to cease contact with [the pupil]".

While he recognised that his behaviour could be interpreted as "flirtatious", the teacher "vehemently denied" any sexual motivation to his actions throughout the proceedings.

He told the panel that he can be "over-enthusiastic", and this was confirmed by a witness, who said he was an "extrovert" and "craves attention".

The panel said the teacher's argument was "convincing", and noted that he was able to "provide plausible explanations" which gave context to his words and actions.

Therefore, it found that Mr Lindridge's conduct was not of a sexual nature nor sexually motivated.

While it found that some of the proven accusations "indicated that a prohibition order would be appropriate", the panel decided that Mr Lindridge should be allowed to continue teaching, on the basis of a number of mitigating factors.

Firstly, the panel heard "persuasive" evidence from a witness that the science teacher was "very hardworking", had "good relationships with students", was "well-liked" and "caring", and "achieved good results". It found no evidence that his actions were pre-conceived – considering them instead to be "spontaneous and naive".

It said: "The panel considered Mr Lindridge to be a man of good character and a talented teacher who has made a valuable contribution to the profession, and in the panel’s view would continue to do so."

The panel also accepted that Mr Lindridge was "genuinely remorseful" for his behaviour. It said he was "candid" and "now fully understands the impact of his actions" – which were put down to "poor judgement".

The panel added that it had regard to the fact that, from the outset, the teacher admitted unacceptable professional conduct.

Giving evidence, Mr Lindridge said: "I realise that I haven’t got the balance right between the personal and professional approach and I am deeply sorry that I have acted in a way which is, and has been seen to be, inappropriate as a teacher.

"My intentions were, and never have been, to act in a manner that could lead to a negative impact on any pupil, fellow member of staff or the excellent reputation and good name of the school and of the profession of teaching."

The panel accepted that Mr Lindridge had "reflected on his misconduct" and demonstrated that he has "well-developed and sincere insight as to his shortcomings".

In light of these "exceptional mitigating factors", the panel decided that a prohibition order would not be appropriate.

Mr Lindridge was also cleared of several other accusations, including discussing the pupil's sexual history with her and allowing her to squeeze or rub his knee.

The panel's recommendations were upheld by Dawn Dandy, decision maker on behalf of the secretary of state for education.

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