‘I love you’: Teacher’s secret letters to student revealed
A Toowoomba private school teacher accused of having a sexual relationship with a student in the 1990s has adamantly denied the allegations in court, claiming she only paid the boy extra attention at the repeated requests of his parents who struggled to control his poor behaviour.
The woman is being sued in the Supreme Court by a former student who says the woman engaged in an inappropriate relationship with him over two years starting when he was aged 13 in Grade 8 and she was 26.
Under questioning from her barrister, the woman has today defended notes she sent the boy which included messages that she loved him, missed him and thought about him "every minute of every day".
The woman alleges the boy's family strongly encouraged her to regularly contact the boy in person, writing and over the telephone to help improve his "frame of mind" and that she thought of the boy and his mother as her friends and had maternal feelings toward the teenager.
The Toowoomba restaurant worker has given evidence she began working at the school the same year the boy began as a boarding student and remembers their first interaction when he "challenged" her by sitting on a desk with his feet on a chair but she chose to ignore it because she was new and wasn't yet aware of the school's disciplinary process.
She said their relationship continued to be antagonistic during the boy's first term when he was given nine detentions in 10 weeks.
"He seemed to be motivated by the detentions rather than deterred," the woman said.
The teacher said the boy's poor behaviour and performance prompted her to call for a parent teacher interview with his mother at the end of the term where they agreed she would try to work closely with the boy the following term to improve the situation.
"I had no rapport with (the boy), I'd done nothing but butt heads with him the whole first term," she said.
The former teacher said when school resumed, she used her position as his pastoral care teacher to implement a behavioural program which included her leaving sticky notes and drawings in his diary that reminded him of positive steps forward they had agreed on.
The teacher said she kept in regular touch with the boy's mum to keep her up to date with his progress and a friendship grew between the two women which gradually became stronger.
At the end of that year, the teacher and her husband were going overseas and she gave evidence that the boy's mum thought "it might be nice" if she sent her son postcards because they had built up a "nice rapport" and she was travelling to some of the places he had studied in geography that year.
The teacher gave evidence that due to their positive relationship, the boy's parents had asked her to intervene on a number of occasions when he became angry or upset.
She said on one occasion a student fetched her to intervene when they saw the boy yelling at his mum on school grounds because she had arrived too early or late to pick him up.
On another occasion she got a call late one night from the boy's mum who said they were staying at a Toowoomba motel and they were worried they would be kicked out because the boy was yelling and they needed help to settle him down.
She said she attended the hotel at about 10pm and found the boy sobbing on his bed and she helped to calm him down for his mum who looked "visibly upset".
The woman also gave evidence that she had allowed the child's family, who were from a remote farming property, to stay at her Toowoomba home for a few days during the Christmas school holidays to allow his sister to attend work experience in town.
The plaintiff's mother gave evidence earlier this week that she recalled the teacher asking to come stay at the family farm one weekend in the boy's second year because she wanted to see his home base.
"I did pass a comment to her at the time and said my goodness you're going to be very busy if you're going to be visiting all the boys that you're working with or supporting in your home group if you're going to visit them all on their respective properties or where they live," the boy's mother said.
"Well I thought it was a little strange to be suggesting a teacher would want to come so I just passed that comment."
The boy's mum told the court at one stage during the visit, she heard giggling coming from her son's room in the morning and she opened the door to find the teacher and her son in their pyjamas on the boy's bed.
"They weren't close, close but I had heard giggling and I think that's why I went in and I was very surprised to see that," the mother said.
"I said … well I think it was probably more the look on my face, I said well I think it's time to get up and breakfast is ready or something like that."
The defendant today denied ever having gone into the boy's room in her pyjamas and claimed it was the boy's mother who had asked her to come for the visit to the property, not the other way around.
She said the only time she had gone into the boy's room was on the first night and she sat on the end of his bed while he sat near the top of the bed and his mum stood at the door while they all chatted.
The woman was also questioned about claims by another former student who gave evidence earlier in the trial saying he witnessed the woman sitting on the boy's lap in front of a computer while another student said he saw the pair wrestling.
She denied the allegations and said the boy had "perched" on the edge of the same seat as her to help her with a printing problem before later demonstrating rugby moves he had made in a game earlier that day.
The former teacher said she was reprimanded by the deputy headmaster over the claims she had been close with the boy in the classroom and was told to make sure she wasn't alone with students in a room which she told the boy's mother over the phone.
"I told her briefly what had happened," she told the court.
"I explained that as a result I couldn't offer (him) the support that we had agreed that I would offer.
"She said she was disappointed and she was concerned about who would support (him)."
The court heard in the winter school holidays of the boy's Grade 9 schooling, he had stayed at the teacher's home for a football camp which is when he claims to have lost his virginity to the woman.
She denies anything of a sexual nature ever took place.
She gave evidence that when the boy went home for the holidays after that weekend, she had a phone call from his mum who was "quite anxious" about his behaviour and state of mind when he returned home, saying was threatening to harm himself.
"She asked me to ring (him) to see if I could settle him down," she said.
"It was a very distressing conversation because when I rang I could hear (his dad) in the background yelling and swearing at (him) to get off (the phone).
"I spoke to (his mum) again and we agreed that the phone call idea had not been very successful and she suggested that I should write to him."
The teacher said she then began corresponding with the boy via letters and faxes.
The woman was taken through a series of notes by her defence barrister Shane MacDonald who asked why she had written some things to the boy including: "I also want to let you know how much I miss you…"
"(His mum) and I had talked about the fact I was a fairly motivating person for (him) at this stage and so she thought he might settle down more if he knew that I was thinking about him and I cared about him," the former teacher said.
The court heard at one stage the boy sent her photos of himself and she reciprocated by sending him one of her passport photos.
"You've got to remember this is 25 years ago, so photos weren't accessible like they are now," she said.
"I had checked with (his mum) about that too."
Mr MacDonald read out part of one letter which said: "Just remember because you're not hearing from me often doesn't mean I'm not thinking of you. I'm thinking of you every minute of every day, I go to sleep with you on my mind and I wake up the same way. You're very special to me (name) and I love you very much."
"What does that all mean?," Mr MacDonald asked.
"So I was quite concerned about (his) state of mind, he was … not his usual gung-ho self, he was upset, he was crying, he was saying how nobody cared about him that sort of thing," she said.
"I'd had phone calls from (his mum) saying…she was concerned about him, he seemed to be not in a very good frame of mind and all I could think of was if I can boost him up to know people that do care about him, me in particular, that it would perhaps make him feel a bit better."
When questioned why she also sent the boy handwritten lyrics to songs including Savage Garden's Truly Madly Deeply and Celine Dion's Seduces Me, the woman said she had sent those lyrics at the boy's request because he had heard them when listening to CDs at her house during the holiday stay with his family and he wanted to learn to play them on his guitar.
"You're using the words I love you and putting kisses and hugs or x's and o's, why do that with a student," her barrister asked about other letters put before the court.
"Well at that stage it was more like a friend than a student," she said.
"There was quite a, I thought there was quite a pronounced friendship between myself and (his mum) and (the boy) and I am very expressive, I always have been and I always will be."
In one note put before the court, the woman asks the boy if he has sent her "that stuff".
"I think it would be a very good idea otherwise you could put it in a bag, tape up the bag and wrap it in my tracksuit pants, you could then give it to me when you give me the tracky pants," she wrote.
The woman said the "stuff" she was referring to were letters and faxes she had sent him because she was worried she could get in trouble for not adhering to the deputy headmaster's request not to get too close to students.
"(The plaintiff) had told me that his parents were going to complain to the school because I had become too involved and after my experience with (the deputy headmaster) I had got quite anxious about them doing that," she said.
"I was feeling threatened."
Mr MacDonald questioned why she continued to contact the student outside of school.
"When I told (his mum) about that situation she was quite upset and she said well the school can't tell you who you can talk to when you're not at school so I'll tell (the boy) he can ring you at home," she said.
"I was concerned about (the student) I felt that (he) needed support, his parents weren't there so it was like the maternal feeling I suppose I felt that he was a little bit better behaved when he felt there was somebody on his side so I had agreed with (his mum) that would work and then along came holidays and all the issues in the holidays and then I hear that after encouraging me to make contact with (him) they were then going to complain to my employer.
"I felt dreadful."
The trial continues.
Originally published as 'I love you': Teacher's secret letters to student revealed