"Did you pay for your breasts? My dad says you did." When a pupil asked primary teacher Lisa Jarmin this question, that was the moment she knew she was public property and fair game for gossip. The answer, in case you're curious, is none of your business.
This may be an extreme example of an invasion of privacy, but every teacher will have a story to tell of an inappropriate remark or an awkward or embarrassing encounter: bumping into a student or parent on holiday in your swimwear, on a boozy night out or, worse still, on a dating site.
Unlike most other professions, in teaching the personal is public. Not only can activities most people take for granted have serious repercussions - and come back to haunt them many years later - but they can also cost a teacher their job. That the rules for anyone dealing with children should be strict is understandable, but surely teachers have the right to a private life?
The answer isn't as straightforward as you might have hoped. "Teachers don't need to be saints," says Matthew Wolton, a specialist in education law, but when they are sinners their transgressions are, in many instances, for their employer to forgive.
Anything illegal is obviously a no-no, but the thinking of the individual school will determine any other wrongdoing - and unfortunately attitudes can vary enormously. Being violent or turning up drunk are clear-cut examples of gross misconduct that would get a teacher sacked. Other examples, however, such as compromising photographs appearing on the internet, may well be down to the school to judge according to the circumstances involved.
And if a teacher does have the right to a private life, then they should also have the right to a decent work-life balance in which to take advantage of it.
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