Reprimand for teacher after TV revelations of unsafe gay sex

6th February 2009 at 00:00
GTC rules that 'cruiser' with multiple partners set 'very poor example' on Channel 4 documentary

A geography teacher has been reprimanded after admitting on TV that he had unprotected gay sex with numerous men he picked up in saunas and on the internet.

Clive Wheeler, who at the time worked at Denbigh High in Luton, told the documentary Queer as Old Folk that he lied to a partner about having a sexually transmitted infection because it could spoil sex.

Dr Wheeler, who was 58 and married at the time of the broadcast in July 2007, spoke about having unsafe sex and said he had six boyfriends at one time.

The General Teaching Council for England has strongly criticised him for a "cavalier approach to serious issues". "This programme could have been viewed by impressionable young people and it provided a very poor example," a professional conduct committee said.

"Teachers are expected to be responsible role models and Dr Wheeler's behaviour fell seriously short of this standard."

Dr Wheeler was criticised for contravening his school's policies on sex and relationships education, designed to encourage personal responsibility and respect for others.

It emerged in the Channel 4 documentary that Dr Wheeler had entered a fundamentalist Christian marriage in a bid to subdue his homosexual urges. He had come out as gay only 18 months before the programme was broadcast.

A voiceover described Dr Wheeler as a "sexual teenager - using Gaydar, cruising saunas and having sex with numerous young men a week". It was not mentioned that Dr Wheeler was a teacher, but the GTC said he should have been aware of the programme's possible audience.

The committee rejected an argument made by Dr Wheeler's representative that teaching should be interpreted only as what happened in planned lessons.

"Although the committee acknowledge that teachers have a right to a private life and also have a right to express their feelings freely, this must be balanced against their professional duties as a teacher and the public perception of them as teachers being responsible for the education and welfare of children," its judgment said.

Dr Wheeler approached the producers of the programme before it was aired to express concern about its content.

The documentary was about the lives of several gay men who had come of age before the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967.

The GTC described Dr Wheeler as naive for having taken part and said he had shown a serious lack of judgment in failing to listen to warnings from colleagues and friends.

It accepted his assurances that he had a responsible attitude to matters of sexual health, but said this would not have been the perception of viewers.

The committee found him guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and gave him a reprimand that will remain on his file for two years.

"This was an isolated incident where lack of consideration was shown for the educational policies of the school," the GTC said. "The committee, in making this order, wants to emphasise to Dr Wheeler that his behaviour was unacceptable and cannot happen again."

A consultation on a new GTC code of conduct, which emphasises the need for teachers to uphold the image of the profession in their behaviour outside school, closes this month.

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