An Adelaide private school teacher sacked for offering to be a 16-year-old student’s “sugar daddy” has lost his unfair dismissal claim.
The 50-year-old teacher took his former employer, St Columba College, to the Fair Work Commission arguing his dismissal had been harsh and unjust.
However, the Commission rejected his claim, describing his suggestive conversation with the young student as “lurid” and “appalling”.
Sugar daddy teacher visited student at her workplace
The teacher began working at the school in 2011.
He taught the student briefly in Year 9 but had not been her main teacher for two years.
Commission deputy president Peter Anderson heard the teacher made regular trips to a supermarket where the student worked.
The store was located 12 kilometres from his house and not his closest supermarket.
The teacher often waited in line at the checkout with a few items, even if other checkout lines were moving faster.
On one occasion, the teacher asked the student when she would be working next.
The student responded that she would be working on Sunday morning, but her shift later changed to the afternoon.
When she started her altered shift, the teacher arrived and waited in line to be served by her.
He asked where she had been that morning and what she was planning that evening.
The student replied that she would be spending time with her boyfriend.
Offer to be a ‘sugar daddy’
A few days later at a school sports day, the teacher asked the student to help rake sand during a long jump competition.
In between bouts of raking, the student said the teacher criticised her boyfriend for being “too short” and “too rich”.
The student said the teacher told her:
“I can treat you better. I can be your sugar daddy. And I can pay you small allowances. We can drink red wine. You can give me neck massages.”
When the student tried to change the subject to his family, he replied: “They’re not important right now, you are.”
The student told her mother and, later the same day, a teacher.
What the Commission found
After an investigation, the school sacked the teacher for serious misconduct.
It paid him six weeks’ salary as a severance package “in recognition of (his) service to the college”.
The teacher subsequently lodged an unfair dismissal claim in the Fair Work Commission, where deputy president Anderson delivered a scathing decision.
“The suggestion that (the teacher) could be the student’s sugar daddy is not just wholly inappropriate and unprofessional but veers towards the lurid.
“That this suggestion was accompanied or followed by a further suggestion that an allowance could be paid is appalling.
“Each of these statements in conversation was a serious breach of duty.”
What the experts say
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from Dismissals ‘R’ Us says the Commission’s decision is unsurprising.
“By anyone standards, the conduct of this teacher is completely unacceptable,” he said.
“Anyone who works in a position of trust around children must ensure their conduct is beyond question.
“Someone who makes sexual or romantic offers to a student in their care should not be teaching.”
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