A teacher who married a student who was half her age when they met has been ordered to pay $23,416 in costs to the Education Council.
The teacher, whose name was suppressed to protect her male former student, was struck off the teaching register last month for starting a relationship with the student in an unnamed youth justice residence when she was 32 and he was 16.
The former student was later jailed for two years in 2011 and the couple married last year.
In a groundbreaking decision, the Education Council’s Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal ruled that the relationship was inappropriate even though the teacher was no longer teaching the student when they started an intimate relationship.
“Teachers retain a professional responsibility to their students, particularly those who are deemed vulnerable because of their age,” the tribunal said.
“The student was vulnerable, and at the time the intimate relationship commenced Student A would have been in his last year of school or just finished it, had he not been in prison.”
It found that the age difference between them was relevant as it “tends to accentuate the power imbalance”.
The teacher told the tribunal after its decision that she could not afford to pay the standard proportion of half of its costs, which totalled $46,832.
She said her only income was $238 a week in family tax credits and an accommodation supplement of $42 a week.
Her partner, the former student, earned $35,000 a year.
“We have no money to spare and get some support from the church, family and friends,” she told the tribunal.
However tribunal deputy chairman Nicholas Chisnall ruled that he was “not satisfied that the evidence adduced by Teacher C demonstrates the type of financial hardship that requires a reduction in the quantum of the order”, and ordered her to pay half the costs – $23,416.
“It is ultimately a matter for the [Education] Council ton decide whether, and how, to pursue the debt,” he said.
Source : New Zealand Herald