Teacher who faked cancer escapes with reprimand

19th November 2010 at 00:00
She altered sick note, but 'regret' and 'remorse' saves her from ban

A teacher who lied about suffering from cancer and forged a sick note has been allowed to stay in the profession.

Lesley Coleman, who has received a General Teaching Council (GTC) reprimand rather than a ban, told colleagues she needed surgery to remove tumours in her stomach, and falsely claimed time off work for medical appointments.

Her bosses only discovered the truth after thinking it odd that Mrs Coleman's family were apparently unaware of her diagnosis.

However, the GTC disciplinary panel said they were struck by Mrs Coleman's "regret" and "remorse" and decided to reprimand her rather than ban her from her job.

Mrs Coleman, who worked at Holy Family Catholic High School in Liverpool, had a full hysterectomy in January 2008 and was off work for five months. In November 2008, she told headteacher Margaret Seddon she had "stomach problems" and was being tested by doctors. She then announced that she had been diagnosed with cancer.

In February 2009, Mrs Coleman was off work for five afternoons, apparently for radiotherapy, after which she told school leaders she was due to have an operation on February 14. But Mrs Seddon became concerned when Mrs Coleman's family made "comments" saying they were unaware she had cancer. The head also suspected the sick note she submitted had been altered.

She referred Mrs Coleman to the local authority occupational health department and in April 2009 it was found she had not been diagnosed with - and was not being treated for - cancer.

Mrs Coleman admitted "misrepresenting" the nature of her illness, but told the GTC panel she "had genuinely believed" she had cancer because her father had died from the disease.

GTC panel chairman Alison Fisher said Mrs Coleman acted in an "unacceptable way", but decided her mitigation was "exceptional" because of recent family tragedies.

"We believe that she was significantly affected by the hysterectomy which her mother had undergone, and then her own hysterectomy," she said. "Mrs Coleman has shown regret for her actions and has shown remorse. We believe that she has shown insight into her actions. She did amend the sick note. However, we have taken into account that she did not receive any tangible gain by such an act."

The reprimand will stay on Mrs Coleman's record for two years. Ms Fisher said that in other circumstances teachers would be barred for the same offence.

Specialist services


Selina' keeps job

A teacher who lived a double life as an escort called "Seductive Selina" has also been allowed to remain in the profession.

Diane Hutton advertised her services on a sexually explicit website, where she said she provided specialist sexual services.

Ms Hutton, 54, worked in a virtual pupil referral unit run by Birmingham City Council, teaching vulnerable children online, at home and in the community. She resigned after her escort service was exposed by a tabloid newspaper.

A GTC panel, which issued a reprimand, said Ms Hutton had been experiencing "major difficulties" in her private life. She admitted "poor judgment" in setting up the website and has since taken it off the internet.

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