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To Sam

Why would a teacher lose their job of they had an affair with a student?

I know it's ok to do so if the student's over 18 but why is it illegal if they're under 18?
I'm not asking why cant they have sex with them cos' that's illegal anyway if the student's under 16. I'm just talking about kissing and holding hands and stuff. If the person wasn't a teacher that would be allowed but why isn't it allowed if they are one?
Ask Sam

Sam

Hi there

Thanks for your message, and although this is a complicated area, it is a really good question to ask. The law says that anyone in a ‘position of trust’ cannot have any sexual contact with a person in their care, even when they are over the age of consent at 16. The reason for this is that the adult is in a position of responsibility and they are there to look out for the best interests of the young person in their care. Someone in a position of trust is classed as a teacher or someone whose job it is to look after you, so if you were in hospital, or in residential care, the people looking after you would also be breaking the law if they were to have a sexual relationship with you. This means that any sexual activity with someone under 18 is actually illegal, which includes any intimate touching, even kissing, as well as all sexual intercourse between both males and females.

It is important to remember that the person over the age of 18 is the one who is breaking the law, and the person receiving the care, such as the student, and are therefore deemed to be innocent. No matter what part they have played in the relationship, even if they want the relationship, and have taken active steps to encourage it where no charges will be brought against them.

Even when both people are over 18, many jobs where someone provides care or a service for someone else, have rules in place which make it against their policy to engage in a sexual relationship. If the worker ignores this rule, it can mean they can lose their job because the relationship is seen as inappropriate, and therefore goes against the company policies and procedures, which are there to protect the people who are being provided a service or being cared for.

You can find out a bit more about this by reading this article from thesite, which explains a bit about the law and gives a link to the government website for further information about the specific law that would be broken, The Sexual Offenses Act 2003 and The Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000.

A relationship where there is an imbalance of power and responsibility will usually conflict with the care that is being provided and therefore means that the person might not be doing their job in the way they should, which might leave the person vulnerable or at risk, particularly if problems arise in the relationship. Teachers and other workers who hold a job in a position of responsibility have a certain amount of power over the people in their care, where sometimes they can make decisions about their life. this means that these lines can be blurred by a relationship where in their personal life they are expected to be on equal footing but in their professional life, one is caring for the other and has more responsibility and power.

It’s important to consider some of the reasons these rules are in place. If a teacher were in a relationship with a student, it might mean they are treated differently, this would make the situation unfair if they were to be allowed to get away with things, or given extra help with things such as coursework or exams. If the relationship were not to work out, it might mean that the young person is also treated differently later on, and might make teaching and learning difficult for both the young person and the teacher.  It is important that everyone is treated in the same way when they are receiving education or care, which makes it important that these boundaries are not crossed. If a teacher or someone in a position of trust does cross these boundaries, with one person under the age of 18, it might mean they are willing to with other young people too, so that means that they may be using their position of trust to harm other people.

Here at ChildLine, we take this law very seriously, and for that reason, if a child or young person tells us something like this is happening between someone under 18 and a person in a position of trust, it is one of the 3 things we cant keep confidential, due to the laws that mean we must keep all children and young people safe. If it is happening to you or someone you know, it is something you can talk about, but its important to know that if you do, ChildLine will probably have to pass the information on to the police so they can investigate it. You can find out a bit more about our confidentiality policy on the website. If you think you or someone you know might be in a relationship that is inappropriate, you can talk to ChildLine, or another adult you trust to get some help, as this should not be happening. If you decide to talk to ChildLine there are a number of ways you can get in touch where there will always be someone here to listen. 

Take care

Sam

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