Harassed by text messages

10th February 2006 at 00:00
Stressed arts head must provide medical evidence before returning to classroom. Charlotte Bailey reports

The head of creative arts at a Birmingham specialist school has been found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct for sexually harassing a woman colleague.

Angelina Romeo-Melody, who taught at the Shireland language college and sixth-form centre, was last week issued with a conditional registration order by England's General Teaching Council.

It said she had failed to recognise the boundaries between professional and social friendships and that her role as head of faculty fell seriously short of the standards expected.

The disciplinary hearing was told last year that she regularly sent inappropriate text messages to Rajendra Bhogal, a newly-qualified arts teacher, late at night.

It heard Mrs Romeo-Melody bombarded Ms Bhogal with text messages, cards and presents for more than a year and declared that she was falling in love with her.

Ms Bhogal told the hearing in November that she received two to three suggestive messages or telephone calls a night, sometimes at 2am, asking her to text back "hugs" and "kisses".

One message read: "You're my bestest friend, I've got so much love for you and only you." Another said: "Wake up Raj I really miss you, hugs kisses."

Mrs Romeo-Melody had been head of music, arts and drama at the school up until mid 2002 when the department was split into two - design and creative arts and the performing arts.

At last week's hearing in Birmingham Charlotte Taylor, the former head of performing arts, said: "Mrs Romeo-Melody was unprofessional and inconsistent in her relationships with other staff."

She said following her appointment as head of performing arts "Angelina couldn't stand to be in the same room as me and I feared a confrontation.

She displayed anger towards me, to the point of hatred."

Annette Pugh, a part-time teacher, told the hearing that Mrs Romeo-Melody was over-familiar to staff. She said: "Mrs Romeo-Melody would send me text messages at all times of day and night, both work-related and of a personal nature. These stopped when Ms Bhogal and Mrs Romeo-Melody became friends.

"Initially, as far as Mrs Romeo-Melody was concerned, Ms Bhogal could do no wrong. I did not fully understand the nature of the relationship between them."

Ms Bhogal, who joined the school in April 2002, told last year's hearing that at first she and Mrs Romeo-Melody had been friends.

"Then she started pressurising me," she said. "She told me I was her best friend and I should tell her at least 100 times a day that I love her. I noticed a change in her behaviour and thought she was very confused and mixed up."

At the previous hearing in December, the GTC heard that Ms Bhogal admitted sending cards, gifts and text messages to Mrs Romeo-Melody, but did it to "shut her up". Mrs Romeo-Melody taught at the school between September 1999 and December 2003. She left after reaching a "compromise agreement" with the school.

The disciplinary hearing found five of the 13 allegations against her proven, including accusations that she swore at a teacher in front of pupils and had volatile and hostile relationships with staff.

Anthony Handley, who chaired the hearing, recognised Mrs Romeo-Melody had been under severe stress and imposed the conditional registration order which means she must provide medical evidence that she is fit to work before she can go back into the classroom.

The committee also ruled that Mrs Romeo-Melody, who was not present at last week's hearing, cannot apply for a management position until she has worked for 12 months to the committee's satisfaction.

* newsdesk@tes.co.uk

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