Teacher sacked for Facebook messages is reprimanded by watchdog

0
63

A TEACHER whose sacking for sending Facebook messages to sixth year students prompted a staff room protest has escaped being struck off.

Almost 50 colleagues signed a document protesting the dismissal of PE teacher Nicholas Torsney at St Margaret’s Academy, Livingston, West Lothian, for sending the four Facebook messages.

The 27-year-old was sacked in June 2013 but appealed and was given a job at another school in the town.

But Mr Torsney had to fight for his career again after the General Teaching Council of Scotland (GTCS) accused him of being unfit to teach and summoned him to a disciplinary hearing in Edinburgh last week.

The GTCS panel stopped short of striking Mr Torsney off, opting instead for a reprimand which will stay on his record for 18 months.

Nicholas Torsney's reprimand will stay on his record for 18 months
Nicholas Torsney’s reprimand will stay on his record for 18 months

 

All of the messages are believed to have been sent to over-18s and two of them were sent to students who had effectively left school following their exams. The messages concerned a prom night and a golfing trip and, although they were signed off “Xx”, there was no suggestion of sexual impropriety.

Mr Torsney admitted all the charges and that his fitness to teach was impaired but denied that he was unfit to teach.

The GTCS said in its decision that “to take no action would not be appropriate given the serious nature of the conduct and would not maintain public confidence in teaching, the teaching profession and GTCS as a regulator”.

It added: “The Panel considered that the majority of factors indicating that a reprimand would be an appropriate and proportionate disposal were present in this case.

“In particular, the Panel noted that there had been no repetition of the conduct which formed the subject matter of the complaint.

“The panel was satisfied that the Respondent had reflected on his conduct, had shown genuine remorse and insight and had taken steps to properly address matters to ensure that it is unlikely he would repeat the conduct.

“The Panel was impressed by the compelling oral evidence attesting to the good character of the respondent and of his teaching performance.”

The earlier hearing was told the first Facebook message read: “”Hey man, u looking forward to this ski trip? I’m not…sorry I’ve messaged u xx”.

The same day he texted the same student: “I should not have sent u a message. Sorry xx”.

As a result of these texts, Mr Torsney was given a final written warning by education chiefs at West Lothian Council.

In June the following year, after the sixth years had completed their exams and were no longer in school, he texted two female students: “So how was prom then? Xx”.

A second message, to a male student, read: “Hope you enjoyed Prom mate. Me U and Downham need to go and play golf soon.”

Mr Torsney told the GTCS hearing this week that he genuinely believed the students had left school and, therefore, the ban on social media contact did not apply. He said he did not realise that the GTCS rules go up to the final day of term.

A colleague of Mr Torsney gave evidence that 48 teachers at the school signed a document which opposed his sacking. One teacher said the incident had been “blown out of proportion” while another claimed the messages had not been “seen in their true context”.

The GTCS was told Mr Torsney was an “inspirational” teacher who had not previously stepped out of line.

Mr Torsney said in a statement yesterday (tues): “This has been a long and tiring process which has caused considerable stress and worry.

“I am delighted that it is now at an end and I hope to continue my career as a teacher with as much success as I have experienced as before.

“More than anything I would like to express my gratitude for the considerable support I have received from colleagues during this time.”A TEACHER whose sacking for sending Facebook messages to sixth year students prompted a staff room protest has escaped being struck off.

Almost 50 colleagues signed a document protesting the dismissal of PE teacher Nicholas Torsney at St Margaret’s Academy, Livingston, West Lothian, for sending the four Facebook messages.

The 27-year-old was sacked in June 2013 but appealed and was given a job at another school in the town.

But Mr Torsney had to fight for his career again after the General Teaching Council of Scotland (GTCS) accused him of being unfit to teach and summoned him to a disciplinary hearing in Edinburgh last week.

The GTCS panel stopped short of striking Mr Torsney off, opting instead for a reprimand which will stay on his record for 18 months.

All of the messages are believed to have been sent to over-18s and two of them were sent to students who had effectively left school following their exams. The messages concerned a prom night and a golfing trip and, although they were signed off “Xx”, there was no suggestion of sexual impropriety.

Mr Torsney admitted all the charges and that his fitness to teach was impaired but denied that he was unfit to teach.

The GTCS said in its decision that “to take no action would not be appropriate given the serious nature of the conduct and would not maintain public confidence in teaching, the teaching profession and GTCS as a regulator”.

It added: “The Panel considered that the majority of factors indicating that a reprimand would be an appropriate and proportionate disposal were present in this case.

“In particular, the Panel noted that there had been no repetition of the conduct which formed the subject matter of the complaint.

“The panel was satisfied that the Respondent had reflected on his conduct, had shown genuine remorse and insight and had taken steps to properly address matters to ensure that it is unlikely he would repeat the conduct.

“The Panel was impressed by the compelling oral evidence attesting to the good character of the respondent and of his teaching performance.”

The earlier hearing was told the first Facebook message read: “”Hey man, u looking forward to this ski trip? I’m not…sorry I’ve messaged u xx”.

The same day he texted the same student: “I should not have sent u a message. Sorry xx”.

As a result of these texts, Mr Torsney was given a final written warning by education chiefs at West Lothian Council.

In June the following year, after the sixth years had completed their exams and were no longer in school, he texted two female students: “So how was prom then? Xx”.

A second message, to a male student, read: “Hope you enjoyed Prom mate. Me U and Downham need to go and play golf soon.”

Mr Torsney told the GTCS hearing this week that he genuinely believed the students had left school and, therefore, the ban on social media contact did not apply. He said he did not realise that the GTCS rules go up to the final day of term.

A colleague of Mr Torsney gave evidence that 48 teachers at the school signed a document which opposed his sacking. One teacher said the incident had been “blown out of proportion” while another claimed the messages had not been “seen in their true context”.

The GTCS was told Mr Torsney was an “inspirational” teacher who had not previously stepped out of line.

Mr Torsney said in a statement yesterday (tues): “This has been a long and tiring process which has caused considerable stress and worry.

“I am delighted that it is now at an end and I hope to continue my career as a teacher with as much success as I have experienced as before.

“More than anything I would like to express my gratitude for the considerable support I have received from colleagues during this time.”

NO COMMENTS