Teacher struck off after inviting pupil home
By Amanda MacMillan
AN internet pest teacher who used a social networking site to try to persuade a female pupil to visit his house has been struck off.
Richard Cantwell even made an online offer to pay for a taxi to ferry the girl to his home.
Cantwell, who taught history and modern studies at a Glasgow school, asked the girl to “come over” despite having been warned off making contact with students through social networking sites by school bosses.
Today (Wed) the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) struck Cantwell off, saying his conversation had contained a “great deal of inappropriate sexual content”.
The 37-year-old from Airdrie was accused of communicating with a pupil via a social networking site whilst employed to teach history and modern studies at All Saints RC Secondary School in Glasgow.
The incident happened on the afternoon of March 22, 2009 when Cantwell, a chronic alcoholic whose marriage had broken down, used Messenger Plus – or MSN – to communicate with the pupil.
The GTCS heard at a previous hearing that Cantwell sent the girl his phone number and told her to call him.
The girl typed back: “I shouldn’t even be talking to you on this, never mind on the phone.”
Cantwell – using the online name Riccant – said: “So come here then. I have money. Do you know how to order a taxi?”
The girl responded: “Of course I do. No, because that’s even worse. It is even more wrong for a pupil to go to a teacher’s house.”
Cantwell did not attend today’s proceedings but his lawyer, Alastair Milne, said he admitted the charges and “accepted that the facts amount to relevant misconduct”.
Niall McLean, representing the GTCS, said that Cantwell was staying at his mother’s home in Airdrie when he started the MSN conversation with the pupil.
He said that he had paid her “compliments” during the conversation.
The panel, convened by Jason Fitzgerald, heard that Cantwell was warned by head teacher Gerry Lyon on March 19, 2009 not to contact pupils via MSN.
And the next day he attended a meeting at the school at which the ban was extended to Facebook.
Mr Milne said: “He (Cantwell) accepts that in that MSN conversation he didn’t avoid a situation that could be conceived as inappropriate.”
He added: “The context is an unfortunate one in that the respondent at the time was suffering from the effects of a long-standing and chronic alcohol problem.
“This led to the breakdown of his marriage in 2005 and had nothing less than a catastrophic effect on his life.”
Mr Milne said that Mr Cantwell had also lost his house because of his addiction.
He said that in March 2009 Mr Cantwell and been on leave of absence because of medical problems relating to his addiction.
And when he returned to work it was clear that he “was not fit”.
Mr Milne said that he was suspended on March 20 after going to school “showing signs of consumption of alcohol”.
He responded to this by drinking more, said Mr Milne.
He added that the MSN conversation had been reported to the police but “they took the view that on the strength of the text there had been no criminal act”.
He said that Cantwell is now studying for a BA honours degree and that he does not wish to return to teaching.
He added: “The respondent has no intention of returning to teaching but when considering which disposal is appropriate in the particular circumstances in my submission there are a number of facts that have to be considered.
“I do not think that removal from the register is appropriate. In my submission that would be unjustified and inappropriately harsh.”
He added that there was no damaging effect to the pupil. He also said that Mr Cantwell shows “genuine remorse”.
But Mr McLean submitted that removal from the register was appropriate has he breached the teachers code of conduct by engaging in “inappropriate contact with pupils”.
And he said that the onus is on the teacher to distance themselves in an inappropriate situation.
He added: “In my submission the charge is serious and removal from the register is the only option available”.
After striking Cantwell off, the panel ordered that he could not reapply to the register for 12 months. An order was also made passing Cantwell’s name to Scottish ministers for inclusion on the list of people prevented from working with young people.
The teacher was sentenced to 240 hours of community service at Airdrie Sheriff Court last year for a separate incident.
He was caught by police last year in Chapelhall shouting aggressively and wielding a five-foot metal pole at another man in the street.
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