'The moment my teacher sent me a text message, alarm bells began to sound in my head.'

Jane McNaughton was a Year 12 student and had just finished her exams when she received a text from her English teacher.

It seemed innocent enough. The teacher at her regional Victorian school, Gregory Gorton, was just asking how her English exam went.

In a piece written for Fairfax Media, Jane describes how the conversation shifted to other topics, but as he was a “young teacher and often enjoyed light-hearted banter” with students, she didn’t think much of it.

Later that week she saw he’d complimented her on one of her Facebook photos.

Jane says her teacher complimented her appearance. (Image via LinkedIn.)

"I knew this was strange," Jane wrote. "There were policies against teachers interacting with students on social media. But I ignored it."

However, her teacher would do something next that told her his intentions were not so innocent. While celebrating with friends one night, she saw she'd received multiple missed calls and messages from Gorton.

"Alarm bells began to sound in my head as I read these messages.

"My fun-loving English teacher was propositioning me to come to the pub in the middle of the night, or to meet him at Gippsland's Sale clocktower 'If you dare'."

Jane said she knew it was "wrong" so she told a few classmates, one of whom had also received inappropriate messages from the same teacher.

"We laughed it off, deleted his number and, as we left Sale to head to university, thought this would be the end of the story."

But it wasn't. A year later, in 2013, Jane discovered her 30-year-old teacher had been found guilty sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl.


Listen: Some parents think you shouldn't leave your children alone with men at all. Mia understands their fears. (Post continues...)

That girl was a student at the school, whom Gorton had lured to a nearby town, plied with alcohol and had sex with.

"I realised that had I just told the school or the police that this man had messaged me a whole year before this offence, Gorton would not have had the opportunity to groom his victim," Jane wrote.

Of course, Jane is not the only person to have misjudged a teacher's inappropriate behaviour towards their student.

A mum shared on Mamamia in June that she felt she had "enabled" a relationship between her 18-year-old school leaver son and his 30-year-old former English teacher.

"For two years, she was his teacher during which he was groomed and emotionally manipulated to the point of dependency," she said. "To add salt into the wound, she was my colleague."

The Queensland mother, writing anonymously, said that she had allowed her son to confide in his teacher about the stresses he felt, stemming in part from his absent father.

"My son was hurting. I couldn’t help him. She became his confidant. He became ‘happier’, he was dealing with some demons. As a mother this brought me comfort."

The mum explained the teacher had kept checking in with her, and when she feared they may be getting too close, she asked them both, and they lied to her and told her nothing was happening. One day she learned the truth.

"How do I deal with knowing my son is in a relationship that he believes to be ‘just two people who love each other’?"

"He acknowledges the circumstances are ‘difficult’ though he does not accept that it is ‘wrong’."

She pointed out the regulatory authority for teachers in Queensland has a guideline on professional boundaries which state "the teacher-student relationship is not equal".

"She has abused this power."

And yet despite these guidelines and criminal penalties, certain teachers continue to start inappropriate or illegal relationships with their students.

It seems every week, we hear of a teacher charged with various sexual offences in relation to their students.

As Jane points out in her article, there were warning signs when it came to Gorton - and not just the ones she experienced. He'd been seen loitering at the nightclubs the year 12 students hang out at, for one.

And as Jane now knows, when it comes to teachers and students transcending those 'friendly' boundaries, you just can't ignore the alarm bells.

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