Posted by: secretperson | October 5, 2008

One Size Fits All Sex Offenders Register Misleads

Chris Keates, head of the NASUWT teachers’ Union, is to say that teachers having sex with Sixth Form pupils shouldn’t be prosecuted.

I am not sure if I agree. We are discussing pupils of legal age, so the legal problems arise from the relationship as teacher and pupil, not age of consent issues. Clearly there is potential for a teacher to exploit there position of power and take advantage of vulnerable pupils, which is wrong. But should it be illegal. In a ‘best case scenario’ a newly qualified teacher could be 21, and the pupil could be 17, a consenting relationship could happen. It would seem ridiculous to take this to court, although the behaviour would be unprofessional and a matter for the school to deal with. But in other cases you could see a case for prosecution. It is a difficult matter I have no strong view on, but it raised another issue.

A story is reocunted involving this scenario, in which the teacher had to sign the sex offenders register, and was banned from working with children for ten years. While I can quite understand why sex offenders, of whatever type, might be bad choices as teachers, the way this man will be labelled is highly misleading.

It is widely assumed that people who are sex offenders are paedophiles. The teacher in this case, who kissed a 17 year old at a party, is lumped together on this document with rapists and child abductors. His career is ruined, and his reputation damaged. While I am not one to dismiss concerns about paedophilia as hysteria, and think those convicted of serious offences should be harshly punished and separated from society, we must recognise that to be labelled a paedophile is the most damaging of all slurs.

A system that includes the young teacher who kisses a pupil we consider legally allowed to consent to any other sexual act with any other adult and the 16 year old who sleeps with a 15 year od girlfriend who could be only days younger than him, on the same list as the 50 year old man who abuses his 10 year old step-daughter or snatches a five year old as he plays in the street, or even a violent rapist of adults, is clearly wrong.

The truly dangerous offenders should be locked up not on a piece of paper, and those whose offence is minor must not be lumped in with genuinely disturbed individuals. Surely a more refined system could be put in place.

In the EU approved manner of declaring vested interests I should point out that I am not a teacher, nor am I on the Sex Offenders Register.


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