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Teacher ecapes classroom ban

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A former school vice-principal who admitted an "unprofessional and inappropriate relationship" with a pupil has escaped a classroom ban.

In a decision just announced, the Secretary of State for Education decided to impose no sanction on Brian O'Connor, 57, despite a Teaching Agency disciplinary panel finding he was guilty of "unacceptable professional conduct" while employed at Hamilton Community College, in Leicester.

The panel said that, in May 2007, the girl, named only as Pupil A, reported to staff she had begun to feel scared after conversations with Mr O'Connor on MSN messenger.

He was dismissed for gross misconduct by the school in November 2007, but, following an investigation, the police decided to take no action against him.

The panel found Mr O'Connor communicated with Pupil A out of school hours via MSN for about six weeks.

He was said to have allowed Pupil A as a passenger in his car when not on school business. An additional allegation that he shared cigarettes with her on school premises during school hours was not found proved.

The panel said: "Mr O'Connor has accepted the communication by MSN constituted an unprofessional and inappropriate relationship with Pupil A and the panel agrees.

"It also considers that allowing Pupil A to be a passenger in his car when not on school business constitutes an unprofessional and inappropriate relationship."

Although the panel recognised that Mr O'Connor's behaviour had affected the well-being of Pupil A, he was said to have shown considerable insight into his wrongdoing and to have accepted he had overstepped the line.

However, the panel said Mr O'Connor found himself in "unique circumstances", and noted that the conduct took place over a relatively short period and "involved no overt sexual comments".

It found that the chance of repetition of similar behaviour was remote, and that no sanction was required.

Professional conduct panels are appointed by the Secretary of State.

Giving the decision on the Secretary of State's behalf, Teaching Agency deputy director Alan Meyrick said: "I accept the recommendation of the panel that in this case no sanction is required."


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