Head of IT surfed for bizarre porn

4th February 2005 at 00:00
Halifax teacher used school PC to look at naked women covered in beans, spaghetti and trifle, reports Julian Gavaghan

A teacher who was caught looking at internet images showing naked women covered in food has been found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct by England's General Teaching Council.

Bernard Bertola, who was head of IT at Hipperholme and Lightcliffe high school in Halifax, West Yorkshire, was given a two-year conditional registration order.

He was also found guilty of inappropriately singling out students by race after telling a group of Asian pupils that he did not trust them to use the school's computers.

Students walked out of the lesson and gave the head written statements after complaining about the incident on October 9, 2002.

One student wrote: "I went up to sir and asked what I had done not to be trusted to use the computers and he explained that it wasn't everybody he couldn't trust, just the Asian boys.

"This was seen as a racist comment because one Asian student did not even sit with those boys and we made the decision to walk out." Mr Bertola told the head he was not being racist but he felt that a group of students who happened to be Asian were abusing the computers.

The council said Mr Bertola had labelled the students inappropriately but could not prove he had a racist motive.

The day after the incident Mr Bertola, who joined the school in 1985, signed off sick and did not return until May 2003, when he spent three weeks working part-time.

On his first full day back at work at the school - which has more than 1,000 pupils and specialises in sport - he was caught viewing what the GTC described as "indecent images and text".

Mr Bertola used a school computer to look at internet sites such as "Messy and Wet", "Gunge Tank" and "Messy Mania". Some sites showed women covered in beans and spaghetti, others included pies and trifles.

He did not attend the disciplinary hearing in Birmingham last week "because it would reopen old wounds". But Mr Bertola told the school that he was not looking for pornographic images or text. He said he had been search-ing for comedy, particularly slapstick Laurel-and-Hardy-style pranks using gunge and cream pies.

He said he had searched for "pies" and "slapstick' on an internet search engine.

But Bradley Albuery, presenting officer, told the hearing that Mr Bertola had knowingly accessed sites that were inappropriate for a school environment.

Members of the GTC were shown examples of the sites he had accessed and Mr Albuery said: "If he hadn't expected sexual images you would not expect to see words such as 'sexy blonde actress gets pie after pie'."

An IT manager spotted Mr Bertola viewing food fetish websites for about an hour-and-a-half on June 2, 2003 from a monitoring computer in another room and told Karen Mort, the headteacher.

Mr Bertola was suspended the next day and sacked after governors considered his case in July.

Mrs Mort told the GTC that Mr Bertola had been a poor role model."It may be that some material may be considered by some people to be acceptable but this was done in the context of a school where parents send their children to learn and for teachers to set a good example.

"I do not believe he was viewing slapstick images. It is evident by their names - take for example ... Sleazegrinder."

Barbara Hibbert, chair of the GTC committee, said: "It is unacceptable for any teacher to view indecent material and his conduct calls into question Mr Bertola's integrity."

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