A former teacher at a Sheffield school who exchanged inappropriate emails with current and former pupils, and left one girl believing they were boyfriend and girlfriend, has been banned from the country’s classrooms.
In a decision on behalf of Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, Ali Ghalib was banned from teaching for at least two years after a disciplinary panel found him guilty of unacceptable professional conduct while employed at Longley Park Sixth Form College, Sheffield.
The National College for Teaching and Leadership professional conduct panel said Ghalib was employed as a teacher at the College from 2004 and in September 2012 a parent of one of the students emailed the Principal raising concerns regarding text messages exchanged between Mr Ghalib and her daughter – Pupil A – Pupil A – and Mr Ghalib was suspended immediately.
The College carried out an investigation and identified other exchanges of emails between Mr Ghalib with other current and former pupils. He was dismissed on 14 December 14, 2012.
The panel found that between May and September 2012, Ghalib ‘engaged in an inappropriate relationship with Pupil A, a 17 year old pupil’, sending private emails to her on one or more occasions and ending them with a ‘x’.
He also referred to her on one or more occasions as his ‘favourite’, his ‘number one’ and ‘babe’, and exchanged mobile numbers with her, sending her more than 500 text messages between 13 and 29 September 2012.
It said that, in an email on September 13, 2013, Pupil A stated: “Need to find a more safe and private way of communication...x.” Subsequently, they shared numbers and promised to delete all their emails from their college accounts.
The panel also found that Ghalib spent time with Pupil A alone within the College and on one or more occasions kissed her on the head and embraced her.
She said in a statement: “It happened three times. Once when I was upset earlier this year and then twice more. The second time was the day after we started texting each other, we met on our own in a classroom. As soon as I walked in, he hugged me and kissed my forehead. The third time was during the last week. He told me to walk over to the cupboard which had a mirror and hugged me and kissed my forehead again.”
The findings say Pupil A believed they were in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship.
The girl had stated: “It was like a girlfriend/boyfriend relationship, except I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone, it was like we were having an affair”.
The panel said: “Mr Ghalib’s references to Pupil A as ‘babe’, ending his messages with ‘x’s, referring to her as his ‘number one’ and his ‘favourite’, sending messages such as: ‘You could be cuddling up with me and telling me everything’; ‘Really would love to be that hot water bottle right now’; and a message sending 27 ‘x’s all would have resulted in Pupil A having the impression of a romantic relationship with Mr Ghalib. Mr Ghalib also admits having sent a message stating ‘thinking of dragging you into an empty classroom’.”
Ghalib had given evidence saying he had always received feedback that he was naturally charismatic and he had an excellent rapport with students. He said his intention in emailing Pupil A in this manner was to ‘make her feel special’, and that he had an arrogance and confidence about him and that sending and receiving these messages massaged his ego.
The panel said: “Although Pupil A was led into a mistaken view of the nature of their relationship did not deliberately intend for this to happen. His behaviour was certainly inappropriate, but it was not consciously intended to have the effect it had.”
The panel said that Ghalib also engaged in inappropriate communication via email with Pupil B between June 2006 and June 2009, beginning when she was coming to the end of her time at the College, during her final examinations.
Its report states: “The Panel considered that the emails exchanged between Mr Ghalib and Pupil B were inappropriate, since they commenced as a result of the professional teacher / pupil relationship. It was not appropriate for Mr Ghalib to use ‘x’s to conclude his emails, to refer to Pupil B as ‘babe’ and ‘hun’, or to comment on her relationship with her former boyfriend.”
It found he also engaged in inappropriate communications with ex-student Pupil C and then-current student Pupil D which had a ‘sexually explicit reference’.
It added: “Mr Ghalib also confirmed that he had referred to oral sex, which he agreed was a sexually explicit reference.”
Another ex-student, Pupil E, referred in emails to having had a ‘school girl crush’ on Mr Ghalib, and that he responded that he ‘gets a lot of that he he’. They also exchanged emails about underwear.
Giving the final decision on behalf of the Secretary of State, NCTL deputy director Alan Meyrick said: “The panel have found that Mr Ghalib had a number of inappropriate relationships with a number of pupils over a period of time. The majority of these relationships were by email although there was also physical contact including kissing and cuddling.
“As a result of the relationships, at least one pupil believed that she was in a girlfriend/boyfriend relationship with Mr Ghalib. Mr Ghalib explained that his intention was not to create such a relationship. However, whatever his intent, it is clear that the language that he used, and the attention that he gave, did lead to that impression.
“In addition the panel found that Mr Ghalib sought to cover up the evidence of these relationships in a clandestine manner.”
Though he acknowledged the panel was very clear they did not find sexual motivation on the part of Ghalib, he said the language and content of the emails did include ‘sexually explicit references’ and Ghalib’s behaviour over a period of time fell significantly short of that expected of a teacher.
Making a Prohibition Order, with a two year review period, he said: “On balance, I consider that in this case, the public interest in upholding the standards of the profession outweigh the interests of Mr Ghalib. His behaviour, over a long period of time, with a number of pupils was serious. As a result of his behaviour a pupil was affected and believed that she was in a relationship with Mr Ghalib.”
The decision means that Ghalib is prohibited from teaching in any school, sixth form college, relevant youth accommodation or children’s home in England. He may apply for the Prohibition Order to be set aside, but not until 19 August 2016, and if he does so he will have to persuade a panel that he is fit to return to the classroom.
Ghalib has a right of appeal to the High Court.