Teacher failed to keep professional boundaries

15th February 2013 at 00:00
Man who boasted to pupils about taking cocaine is declared unfit to teach

A 29-year-old drama teacher from the Highlands has been struck off and declared unfit to teach, for failing to maintain appropriate boundaries with pupils and boasting that he took cocaine at the RockNess music festival in front of two pupils.

Ian McMillan, who was suspended from his post at Culloden Academy near Inverness in November 2010 and sacked last November by Highland Council, had exchanged personal texts with a pupil and mixed in pubs and clubs with pupils against the advice of colleagues, the fitness to teach panel of the General Teaching Council for Scotland heard.

The panel also heard evidence that a colleague, Katherine Van Exan, had become concerned because a pupil was spending time with Mr McMillan in his classroom when he was not her teacher.

It was also found proven that Mr McMillan had given preferential treatment to a pupil by allowing her to text him when she was going to be late for registration class and then marking her present when she was not.

Following a two-day hearing in Edinburgh, the panel found that Mr McMillan had failed in a number of ways to comply with the GTCS's Code of Professionalism and Conduct (Copac); while not all the failures were significant, some were.

In particular, he had "repeatedly failed to maintain appropriate professional boundaries and avoid improper conduct or relationships with pupils and respect his position of trust as a teacher", it said.

This included giving one pupil his BlackBerry number, which allowed her to contact him outwith school hours and arrange to visit him at home on one occasion. This was considered by the panel to be "a serious failure to comply with Copac", which expressly states that a teacher must not attempt to establish an inappropriate relationship with a pupil that might include sending emails or text messages to the pupil of an inappropriate or personal nature.

The panel also noted a recurring theme in the evidence - that Mr McMillan failed to maintain appropriate professional boundaries in the classroom. A number of witnesses commented that he:

- allowed one pupil to sit on his desk and chat, sometimes during lessons;

- was inappropriately tactile with pupils, including touching one on the arm and waist, and on at least one occasion massaging a pupil on the back;

- allowed inappropriate notes and communications from pupils in his classroom;

- allowed a pupil to attend his class with no real reason for her to be there;

- and spent time with a pupil at lunchtime for whom he had no teaching responsibility.

Although noting that he was a relatively young and inexperienced teacher, the panel did not feel this was mitigation for his behaviour.


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