Pacifist did not pursue parent

2nd July 2004 at 01:00
General Teaching Council panel clears a former head of making inappropriate advances. Stephen Lucas and Tara Fawcett report

A former headteacher who earned national notoriety when he told pupils that the US-led strikes in Afghanistan were wrong has been cleared of making inappropriate sexual advances towards a parent by the General Teaching Council for England.

The GTC rejected claims that Peter Stevenson, 48, the former head of Exeter Road primary school in Exmouth, Devon, pursued a parent in 2001, telling her he wanted to meet her somewhere "discreet after dark".

The married father of two, who was cleared on Friday, told The TES: "It has been the most incredibly stressful experience. People have verbally abused me in the street and thrown bottles and eggs at my house. For a while my family and I could not go for a walk. We used to hold hands as we walked along the road, or drive everywhere."

He said his 12-year-old son, who attends Exmouth community college, has been bullied because of the allegations: "My son has had to weather the bullying. The school have been very supportive, but they cannot be around all the time."

Mr Stevenson's wife Elaine, said: "The allegation posed no threat to our marriage at all. It made us stronger. I stood by my husband and believed him all the time."

The GTC reprimanded Mr Stevenson for unacceptable professional conduct because he sent poems to the parent.

Mr Stevenson argued that as a recognised poet he often sent poems to people as an innocent gesture.

He said: "Sending the poems seemed like a natural thing to do at the time, but the GTC said I should be more careful and establish boundaries, and I thought that was fair advice."

The committee also said Mr Stevenson had behaved unprofessionally by asking the mother's children where she was during a meeting that she had allegedly missed, by acting aggressively towards a parent in July 2002 and by mishandling a situation in which a girl had been accused of bullying.

Another parent alleged that Mr Stevenson threatened to expel her son and told her she would lose an appeal against him, but this was not proven.

The reprimand will remain on Mr Stevenson's record for two years and does not prevent him from teaching.

Mr Stevenson attracted media attention in November 2001 after telling pupils that the American strikes on Afghanistan were wrong.

He told the committee that his stance and beliefs on the war became a local talking point, with people feeling they either had to "praise and support me or condemn and vilify me".

After joining the school in January 2000, Mr Stevenson told the committee that he resigned at the end of March 2003 because he feared for the safety of his family after a number of public outbursts against him.

He said: "With hindsight I would have done things differently. I would have made sure everyone - parents and governors - knew I was going to teach the lesson in a balanced way. But I am a pacifist and I do not regret any of it."

Mr and Mrs Stevenson are now thinking of leaving Exmouth. Mr Stevenson, who works part-time as a supply teacher and runs his own business called Albion Arts, which introduces children to art, said: "We will be having a party to thank everyone who wrote letters of support.

"We have good friends here who it will be hard to leave, but after all that has happened you cannot blame us for considering leaving."

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