Teacher grooms and marries primary school student 34 years younger to him, girl says he 'means the world' to her
A teacher has been deregistered after he reportedly groomed and then married his former primary school student who is 34 years younger to him. The man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, told a tribunal that he immigrated to New Zealand with his wife, but she later died, according to a Daily Mail report.
The former educator met the primary school student, who also cannot be named for legal reasons, at a village in New Zealand's North Island. At the time, she was just 11 years old while he was 45, and she had him as a teacher through Years Seven and Eight, according to the report.
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It emerged that the educator had groomed the girl from the age of 11 to 13, giving her jewelry, money and extra learning support that she needed. The Teacher's Disciplinary Tribunal heard how the pair were seen holding hands with each other and that the girl would sometimes stay back after class to talk to the teacher.
One of the girl's cousins recalled that "she saw their hands touching a few times and when she walked in there would be an awkward silence and they would look at her and shuffle apart," the tribunal said, according to the Daily Mail.
The cousin told the tribunal that conversations she overheard between the pair were far from normal and that the teacher had also given her $5 and some earrings despite being only in Year Four herself at the time.
However, the lawyer representing the teacher claimed there were inconsistencies in the cousin's version of events, and the tribunal also ruled there was insufficient evidence to prove that the teacher had engaged in serious misconduct while his future wife was still a student of his at the school.
The teacher regularly saw the girl outside of school hours once she graduated from primary school, often inviting her to his house to play or on his jet ski. Her parents weren't suspicious of her relationship with the teacher while she was at school, and found out something was wrong six months after she left college at age 18.
This happened in 2017 when a police officer turned up at their residence and asked the mother where her daughter was. She had assumed her daughter was in Hawke's Bay with friends, but the officer told her she was with the teacher. To the mother's horror, she found contraceptive pills in her daughter's drawer. In a shocking turn of events, the girl revealed that her former teacher wouldn't have sex with her unless she was on birth control.
The embattled parents sent their daughter over to live in Australia with her brother, even setting her up with money and a car. However, her brother reportedly sent her home in September 2017. Shockingly, the father revealed how the teacher showed up in Australia looking for her and became enraged when he learned she had gone back to New Zealand. However, the girl left for the teacher's house barely a week after returning home to her parents.
The father said he even ended up in a physical altercation with the teacher about a month later, when his daughter told him they were moving to China but she didn't really want to go. However, the man later married the girl when she was 20 years old and he was 54.
The teacher's behavior was "at the most extreme end" of serious misconduct for years, the Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal ruled, adding that the only appropriate penalty was canceling his teaching license.
The teacher and his former student told the Tribunal their relationship began only after she turned 16. The latter described her wedding day as "the happiest time of her life" and that her husband "means the world" to her.
"He treats me with total respect; he supports me in everything that I want to do and comforts me when I'm feeling low...I've always been treated as an equal, a mature adult, his best friend, and partner," she added.
However, the tribunal noted that the girl had no money of her own or any goods in her own name, and had to ask the former teacher for money for clothes or groceries. The pair reportedly moved to China where he teaches English, while his young wife stays at home to cook and clean. According to the tribunal, the former student is "totally dependent" on the teacher financially, socially and emotionally.
"Her role in the relationship is about fulfilling his needs and wants. The power imbalance now that they are married is as significant as it has always been," the tribunal said.
"We do not accept the submissions that the respondent takes steps to mitigate that. Quite the opposite. He has taken Student C away from her whānau and friends to the other side of the world. When they return to New Zealand, she sees her friends only in his presence in his home." It added: "His behavior is about power and control, not partnership and reciprocity."