A PE teacher from a Cambridgeshire school who viewed pornographic images on a school laptop lost his job but not his profession, a Teaching Regulation Agency panel has concluded.
They decided that it would not be proportionate to ban from teaching 35-year-old Robert Walker -who viewed the material over a two year period but not whilst he was working at the unnamed school.
The panel’s findings reveal that police undertook a search of Mr Walker’s house on February 1, 2017 and all IT equipment and phones were seized.
On May 9 the school was told that police had concluded their investigation and no charges would be made.
The school subsequently commenced an internal investigation and Mr Walker attended a disciplinary hearing. He admitted that his actions were contrary to the school’s IT acceptable use policy
“The panel confirms that it has read all the documents provided in the bundle in advance of the meeting,” says a report.
It was revealed that Mr Walker had been employed at the school since September 2006 as a PE teacher.
Evidence showed that he had used his school laptop to access pornographic material outside of school hours whilst at home.
The report noted: “This was reported to the school’s principal as some of the websites viewed referred to the term ‘twinks’ which is an American term used for males who are over 18 years of age but appear younger.
“The matter was referred to the local authority designated officer who thereafter referred the matter to the police”
Whilst the panel did not consider that there were any safeguarding issues with this behaviour, the panel did believe it would damage the public’s perception of the teaching profession and there were public interest factors to consider.
“Accordingly, the panel is satisfied that Mr Walker is guilty of unacceptable professional conduct,” says the report.
“The panel has taken into account how the teaching profession is viewed by others and considered the influence that teachers may have on pupils, parents and others in the community.
“The panel has taken account of the uniquely influential role that teachers can hold in pupils’ lives and that pupils must be able to view teachers as role models in the way they behave.
“The findings of misconduct are serious and the conduct displayed would likely have a negative impact on the individual’s status as a teacher, potentially damaging the public’s perception. The panel therefore finds that Mr Walker’s actions constitute conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute.
“ Having found the facts of the allegation proven, we further find that Mr Walker’s conduct amounts to both unacceptable professional conduct and conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute.”,
The Teaching Regulation Agency panel found a ban would not be proportionate.
It concluded: “The panel considered carefully whether or not it would be proportionate to impose a prohibition order taking into account the effect that this would have on Mr Walker.
“In carrying out the balancing exercise the panel has considered the public interest considerations both in favour of and against prohibition as well as the interests of Mr Walker.”
Mr Walker said in a statement afterwards to the BBC that he fully understood the decision made by the school to dismiss him and that “his behaviour was below the expectation of a teacher”.
Mr Walker added: “I can assure anyone who needs to know that I will not be venturing down that avenue again.”