Chemistry teacher called kid “sperm boy”

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A CHEMISTRY teacher repeatedly called one of his pupils “sperm boy” in front of classmates, a hearing was told.

Stephen Borthwick also openly discussed fellow teachers’ erections, compared “pulling” in a nightclub with chemical reactions, described one pupil as a “depressed weirdo”, and chucked a beaker of water over another, according to witnesses.

The former teacher at Douglas Academy, Milngavie, East Dunbartonshire, even suggested to a pupil that he had spent time with prostitutes in Las Vegas and thrown beads at strippers.

His former headteacher said never in his 20-year career could he recall another teacher “getting into so much bother so quickly”.

Mr Borthwick – described at the hearing as an “arrogant” and “argumentative” young man who would not heed advice – faces eight charges in front of the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS).

He was neither present nor represented at the hearing in Edinburgh but earlier told investigators that he refuted the charges, some of which he claimed had been “tagged on” to lose him his job.

The alleged incidents took place at Douglas Academy, Milngavie
The alleged incidents took place at Douglas Academy, Milngavie

Mr Borthwick was sacked from his post in November 2013 and was said at the hearing to be “travelling”.

The teacher, who taught general science to younger pupils, could be struck off if the allegations against him, which relate to the period February 2010 to August 2012, are found proved.

Carlo Roth, presenting the case for the GTCS, told a disciplinary panel: “In a previous Biology lesson, Mr Borthwick had asked a question to which Pupil 6 incorrectly replied with the word “sperm”.

“Mr Borthwick then referred to the pupil as ‘sperm boy’ for the next few lessons.”

Detailing Mr Borthwick’s discussion of fellow teachers’ erections, she continued: “A loud banging noise could be heard coming from upstairs. Mr Borthwick then said to his class, ‘Mr Hardie must be having an erection’. He then sent Pupil 7 to go and check what was causing the noise and when they returned, everyone laughed.”

Headteacher Seamus Black said that in over two decades in the profession had had “never encountered a teacher who has got into so much bother so quickly after starting a job and on so many occasions”.

Mr Black said: “I found him to be arrogant, unwilling to listen and unable to learn from others.”

The headteacher said Mr Borthwick’s behaviour resulted in complaints from parents. “We received a complaint from a parent via email on the 3rd of February 2011,” he said. “The parent alleged that Mr Borthwick had called a pupil ‘sperm boy’ in a science class he was taking. It was also said he had talked about his fellow teachers getting erections and engaging in sex.”

The headteacher described another occasion when a parent submitted a letter of complaint after he called a pupil a “depressed weirdo”.

“The parent also reported that he had used the analogy of ‘pulling’ in a nightclub to describe chemical reactions” said Mr Black.

He continued: “The pupil reported he had said ‘where would you have the best chance of attracting and reacting.”

Unsuitable images were used in class, alleged the headteacher. “He used images of disabled swimmers in an inappropriate manner on slides to teach his pupils,” said Mr Black.

“All the slides caused concern. For example, they seemed to show that short was unattractive or disabled against able. From the slides it would appear he holds adverse views towards people with disabilities.”

A statement by Alison Lyons, a Biology teacher and former colleague of Mr Borthwick’s was read at the hearing.

“On one occasion he was helping a pupil with her studies but I overheard the conversation move away from work,” she stated.

“He began to talk about his time travelling in America, specifically Las Vegas, and mentioned the fact that he received many cards from prostitutes. He said to her, ‘As you can understand I didn’t see much of Vegas’.”

Her statement continued: “He mentioned chucking beads at strippers who would then lift up their tops or underpants and didn’t wear any underwear.

“I looked across at him with a shocked face and said ‘Mr Borthwick’ to show him I didn’t feel the conversation was appropriate.”

Anne Maley, Deputy Head Teacher of Douglas Academy, said of Mr Borthwick: “He struck me initially as a young man who wouldn’t listen to advice.

“I found he could be argumentative and didn’t understand that the advice given was just to help him.”

She added: “I was told that two pupils were messing about with syringes of water at the back of one of his classes.

“The pupil in question then told me that Mr Borthwick came across and threw a beaker of water down her front.

“She then said she was refused permission to go to the bathroom to dry herself off and had to use hand towels but it was left wet for the rest of the class.”

The presenting officer told the hearing that Mr Borthwick had “refuted” the claims completely, saying that any images used in his teaching were “commonly found on pre-watershed television” and felt that certain allegations had been tagged onto other ones “to ensure he lost his job.”

The hearing continues.

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