Is love such a crime?;Letter

13th August 1999 at 01:00
IN EARLY June my wife and I were enjoying an evening at a multiplex cinema more than 20 miles away from home. We bumped into a young colleague at my school. He is 27 and he had with him his girlfriend of 17. We ended up having a snack meal and a chat at McDonald's before going our different ways.

There was nothing shocking about the experience at all. It would only have been mildly shocking, in 1999 for heaven's sake, had they been a gay couple. However, some would be appalled at their "liaison" because while he is a teacher at my school she is a senior student who will commence sixth year this month.

They have been going out together for about a year. They are very discreet in that only about three staff at the school, myself included, are aware of this and only one student, the girl's best friend, and a younger brother know. Both sets of parents are aware of their love for each other and have no comment at all.

The reality is that there is a lot of hypocrisy about a situation like this. If two people of that age in virtually any other occupation were having a relationship, no one would bat an eyelid. No one would even be too concerned if he was a teacher at one school and she was a senior student at another or at a local college, or had now left the same school.

Is it an abuse of power? Of course not. If he was 50 and she was 17 it would be a very different matter and he would deserve all he got. However, a young lady of 17 is not a child and I am concerned to read that such an affair could actually become a criminal act under Scottish law.

I have been teaching for almost 20 years and I can think of 11 student-staff relationships in that time. Seven led to marriage (one between a sixth-year male student and a young teacher).

Perhaps it should remain at a head's discretion to ensure that either a teacher or a senior student transfers to another school where it becomes public knowledge. Most teachers I know feel that is the best option.

I trust that Sam Galbraith will have the good sense to leave it at that. He could be walking into a moral minefield otherwise.

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