Teacher branded ‘predator’ after sending ‘sexualised’ Snapchat messages to teenage girls struck off for 15 years | #childpredator | #onlinepredator | #sextrafficing

The regulatory body for teachers also ruled that the teacher should not be eligible to apply to re-register for a minimum of 15 years as the seriousness of the findings against him were “fundamentally incompatible with his continued registration as a teacher.”

An inquiry by the Teaching Council in July found the teacher guilty of seven allegations of professional misconduct as well as breaches of the Code of Professional Conduct for Teachers.

It ruled that the teacher had engaged in inappropriate contact on Snapchat with six former students at the secondary school where he taught as well as with another girl from the same area.

Some of the text messages contained material of a “highly sexual nature.”

The messages were sent on unknown dates between September 2019 and July 2020 when the girls were aged 13-14 years.

The name of the teacher, the students, the school and its general geographical location cannot be identified by direction of the Teaching Council.

The inquiry heard evidence over two days this summer that the teacher had worked as a student teacher and subsequently as a substitute teacher at the school between September and December 2019.

At a sanction hearing on Thursday, the council’s disciplinary committee said the professional misconduct by the teacher was “at or very close to the highest end on the spectrum in terms of their seriousness.”

The committee’s chairperson, Seán O’Neill, said matters taken into consideration were the abusive nature of his conduct and the age profile of the students who were at a stage of development where children tended to be especially vulnerable.

Mr O’Neill said the teacher’s actions could not be deemed “a once-off incident or brief momentary lapse.”

He said each inappropriate contact involved “a significant degree of careful preparation designed to make his manipulative approaches appear innocent and friendly and were clearly with a view to pursuing further inappropriate contact.”

Mr O’Neill noted that many of the contacts had been “flirtatious and sexualised,” with the teacher sending a part-topless photo of himself to one student, while he had described another girl as a “little ride.”

Another student was urged to keep the contact secret so that the teacher would not get into trouble or be arrested, which Mr O’Neill said was “clearly manipulative.”

The committee found that the teacher had also created a very high risk of significant, long-term harm to the children including psychological and emotional damage.

Mr O’Neill said any mitigating facts put forward by the teacher including his relatively young age and inexperience, family problems, mental health issues and significant alcohol abuse, were unsupported by any evidence or corroborating documentation.

He claimed the committee was struck by the “almost total lack of insight into the gravity of his misconduct.”

“Any expression of apology was vague and simply did not ring true,” he added.

The solicitor for the Teaching Council, James Roche, informed the committee that the teacher, who did not appear at the inquiry, was aware of the sanction hearing but had chosen not to attend.

However, Mr Roche said a letter had been received from the teacher in which he asked the committee not to remove his name from the Register of Teachers but to instead impose a lesser sanction.

The teacher, who has been a registered post-primary teacher since 2019, said he would be happy to comply with any conditions imposed by the Teaching Council.

He also suggested that completing a specified personal development course would be “extremely beneficial” for himself.

The teacher insisted that he was “not a risk to people” and his offending actions had taken place during a brief period when he was “going through a terrible period.”

“My regret over these actions continues to haunt me to this day,” he added.

Although not seeking in any way to excuse his behaviour, he pointed out that he had been a very young student teacher at the time.

While he understood the Teaching Council had a duty to maintain confidence in the teaching profession, he claimed it could be achieved through his rehabilitation rather than his removal as a teacher.

The teacher said there had been no further incidents in relation to his behaviour over the intervening period.

If looked for, he claimed he would have no difficulty in obtaining “many glowing references.”

He maintained there were several contributory factors which led to his “terribly bad decision-making.”

The teacher also apologised for his conduct, adding that he was “incredibly remorseful” for any hurt he had caused at a time when his life was falling apart.

However, he insisted he had turned his life around and had greatly matured since his offending behaviour.

The committee rejected a request by the teacher that part of his letter should not be read out in public.

It related to a new job unrelated to teaching that the teacher said he is due to start in a few weeks and his fears about the difficulties he would face in finding work outside the teaching profession if his dealings with the Teaching Council became public.

He said he had suffered greatly over the past three years and had already been out of work for a long time.

While reports of his case have been anonymised, the teacher said he was shocked that he had still been asked about it.

During the inquiry, counsel for the Teaching Council, Eoghan O’Sullivan BL praised the students for the mature way they had dealt with the situation by either not accepting the teacher’s request to add him to their friends on Snapchat or terminating online conversations with him once they realised he was their former teacher.

One of the girl’s mothers branded the teacher as “a predator” during her evidence to the committee.

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