Two-year ban for teacher who gave pupils porn and McDonald's

4th December 2009 at 00:00
He failed to recognise 'appropriate boundaries' of behaviour, GTC finds

A teacher who gave a pupil a pornographic film, had "inappropriate" conversations with them about sex and took a child out shopping for a burger during school time has been banned from the profession for two years.

Paul Thornton sent texts and messages over the internet to his class, sold them fizzy drinks, topped up one of their mobile phones and made contact with a student while he was suspended, a General Teaching Council for England (GTC) panel heard.

He was also accused, although cleared, of inviting pupils to his house and giving them alcoholic drinks.

Mr Thornton admitted most of the offences, which happened while he was working at John Smeaton Community High School in Leeds in 2006. He used computers to ask children about their families and where they lived.

He says he gave the adult DVD to "pupil B" by mistake, and that he was only on the "periphery" of a group of children talking about "sexual matters" and did not take part in their conversation. But the GTC panel believed the testimony of "pupil A", who could recount specific details of the chat.

The teacher admitted taking "pupil C" to McDonald's and buying him a meal. He also topped up the child's mobile phone without their request or consent. Mr Thornton admits texting children and emailing them about topics not connected with school.

Headteacher John Daulby warned Mr Thornton three times not to sell Coca-Cola to children but he did not stop.

Mr Thornton broke the terms of his suspension by contacting David Brooke, a teacher at the school, and "pupil D", a sixth-form student.

He admits posting a note and money through Mr Brooke's letter box, and meeting the pupil and giving a laptop to him.

On separate charges, the GTC panel said there was no evidence to suggest Mr Thornton gave children money and gifts, including a laptop case and wireless keyboard, or that he regularly invited children back to his home to drink alcohol.

He was found guilty of unprofessional conduct. The GTC said he did not take "reasonable care" to ensure the welfare of pupils.

"Mr Thornton asserts that the provision of the pornographic DVD to a pupil occurred by accident," the panel said. "Nevertheless this does, in our opinion, constitute unacceptable professional conduct.

"Equally we were satisfied Mr Thornton did engage in inappropriate conversations about sexual matters with pupils. This causes us particular concern as to his capacity to recognise appropriate boundaries of behaviour that teachers need to observe in their relationships with students.

"We consider this a serious case that raises concerns about whether Mr Thornton can be allowed to continue teaching. We determine that our duty towards the welfare of pupils whom may be taught by Mr Thornton in the future must be our paramount consideration.

"We are concerned that Mr Thornton is a teacher of very considerable experience so that this sort of behaviour gives us real anxiety. The evidence demonstrates that Mr Thornton has fundamentally failed to appreciate the boundaries involved in the teacher-pupil relationship."

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