Lecturer quits over harassment charge

14th July 2000 at 01:00
A LECTURER has resigned after being accused of sexually harassing a teenage art student, weeks before he would have faced a disciplinary hearing.

The 18-year-old student said Pat O'Farrell. 41 commented on her good looks, asked about her sex life and asked her to his home for painting sessions.

Mr O'Farrell strenuously denies any improper motive, but said he decided to resign from Merton College in Surrey, rather than face "exaggerated" accusations at tbe hearing.

The former A-level student, who wishes to remain anonymous, is unhappy at the way the college has acted since she gave a statement to a lecturer who was asked to investigate.

She said she had heard nothing since May 22, when Sally McEnhill, the principal, told her in writing that: "Mr O'Farrell will not be returning to teach your class. As the college is in the process of dealing with tbe very serious issues you raised, I am sure you will understand that I am unable to go into further details."

She said: "I feel horrible. I want to know what happened. I'm worried because I don't want him to teach anyone else. Because one day a girl might go back to his house."

Mr O'Farrell said he resigned on May 27, after the college gave him a reference he could use for other jobs.

The student, who has now left the college, said: "He asked me to come back to his house for private tuition and to model for him. He said 'you would be a good model' but didn't actually say nude model.

"He would ask about my boyfriend, about my sex life. He never asked boys home. He always asked me home when talking about nude modlling."

Mr O'Farrell, who lives alone in nearby Barnes, said: "I haven't done anything wrong apart from asking her to join my life classes. I think it was handled badly by the college. I was appalled. I was going to go to the Press myself.

"I regularly draw people in my studio. It was not my intention to draw her while on the course y was going to wait until after the course... my intentions were not predatory.

"I reckon I asked her (to model) on two occasions. I did get to know her really well. We didn't have a conversation about nude modelling. I run life classes in a studio in my home. It was only her I invited.

"When talking about her boyfriend, I may have said 'have you slept with him yet?'.

"Private tuition became misconstrued as one-to-one. I was basi cally over friendly. Perhaps I over- stepped the mark. I crossed the barrier, which I think was due to my own boredom."

College principal Sally McEnhill said the student had been told she could discuss any further concerns with assistant principal Ian Park.

She said there was no question of trying to put Mr OFarrell's name on the Department for Education and Employment's List 99 of teachers barred from employ- ment because of misconduct or on medical grounds.

She said: "It would have been improper to put him on List 99.

Had we come to the conclusion he was guilty it would have been a different position."

Asked if the matter had been reported to the DFEE, she said: "I don't think that is any of your business."

Mr O'Farrell said he is now concentrating on his private tuition.

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