No charges for Bish­ops sex teacher

Cape Times - - FRONT PAGE - OKUHLE HLATI [email protected]

PO­LICE are not in­ves­ti­gat­ing sex­ual abuse al­le­ga­tions against former Bish­ops Dioce­san Col­lege teacher Fiona Viotti, de­spite the school’s in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion which found that she sex­u­ally en­gaged with at least five pupils.

Viotti, 30, was em­ployed as a wa­ter polo coach and his­tory teacher at the Ron­de­bosch pri­vate school for six years. She re­signed on Oc­to­ber 11, the day the al­le­ga­tions emerged.

It is un­der­stood that one of the pupils she was al­legedly in a re­la­tion­ship with wanted to end things but she re­fused, re­sult­ing in the pupil telling his par­ents who then in­formed the school.

Viotti had al­legedly sent nude photos of her­self to pupils, and videos of her mas­tur­bat­ing on a bed. The ma­te­rial was dis­trib­uted on a site, and later taken down when her at­tor­neys threat­ened to take crim­i­nal ac­tion against the per­son who dis­trib­uted the ma­te­rial.

The school ini­ti­ated an in­ves­ti­ga­tion on Oc­to­ber 15, with ad­vo­cate Fran­cois van Zyl, SC, of the Cape Bar and Graeme Dor­ring­ton of Dor­ring­ton Jessop At­tor­neys ap­pointed to lead the probe.

Head­mas­ter Guy Pear­son, the al­leged vic­tims, staff and oth­ers were in­ter­viewed. Pear­son said the teacher opted to not make writ­ten sub­mis­sions to the in­ves­ti­ga­tors af­ter her res­ig­na­tion.

In a state­ment yes­ter­day, the school said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­cluded that Viotti’s ac­tions were not only in breach of the Bish­ops Code of Pro­fes­sional Con­duct for Teach­ing Staff, but the Code of Pro­fes­sional Ethics is­sued by the South African Coun­cil of Ed­u­ca­tors. How­ever, be­cause she re­signed from the school, no dis­ci­plinary ac­tion can be taken against her, the school said.

“The in­ves­ti­ga­tors have in­formed the school of their duty to report to the ap­pro­pri­ate au­thor­i­ties. The school is co-op­er­at­ing with the au­thor­i­ties in this re­gard. The school has also made the par­ents of the af­fected boys aware of their rights and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in this mat­ter,” Pear­son said.

“The at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing the fe­male teacher, in a let­ter ini­tially of­fered the fe­male teacher’s full co­op­er­a­tion with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. But a re­quest by the in­ves­ti­ga­tors for her to at­tend an in­ter­view with them was later re­fused. Fur­ther­more, the in­ves­ti­ga­tors were in­formed that she was not pre­pared to make any writ­ten com­ments re­gard­ing the mer­its of the mat­ter,” he said.

“The in­ves­ti­ga­tors re­viewed the cur­rent poli­cies in place at Bish­ops con­cern­ing teacher and pupil in­ter­ac­tion. They are sat­is­fied that the school does have the nec­es­sary poli­cies and pro­ce­dures

in place to ad­dress mat­ters of sex­ual mis­con­duct, and that the school has taken all rea­son­able steps in this re­gard,” Pear­son said.

Po­lice spokesper­son Siyab­ulela Malo said af­ter con­sult­ing with Ron­de­bosch po­lice it was con­firmed that no case had been opened against Viotti.

Viotti’s lawyer Wil­liam Booth mean­while re­futed claims that Viotti re­fused to be in­ter­viewed dur­ing the probe.

“I had met with the in­ves­ti­ga­tors and in­formed them that my client was un­der med­i­cal treat­ment at the time and emo­tion­ally not in a fit state to be in­ter­viewed.

“The school should have ex­plained it in the report.

“An­other rea­son was that we were in­formed that the South African Coun­cil for Ed­u­ca­tors (Sace) might in­ves­ti­gate her, so any­thing she could’ve said in the school in­ter­view could have com­pro­mised that in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Booth said.

He added that the process was not a dis­ci­plinary in­quiry and Viotti didn’t have to give ev­i­dence.

“We also do not know what the school means when they say they have re­ferred the mat­ter to the ap­pro­pri­ate au­thor­i­ties.

“As far as I know she hasn’t com­mit­ted any crime,” Booth said.

Sace spokesper­son Themba Ndhlovu said they were in­ves­ti­gat­ing the al­le­ga­tions and would soon in­ter­view Viotti.

“Sace as the only reg­u­la­tory body has the man­date to in­ves­ti­gate this mat­ter even if the said per­son de­cided to re­sign from em­ploy­ment, be­cause she is still a reg­is­tered mem­ber and there­fore still sub­jected to the Code of Pro­fes­sional Ethics.

“While not at­tempt­ing to pre­judge the case, more of­ten per­sons found guilty of such of­fences are struck off the roll in­def­i­nitely,” Ndhlovu said.

FIONA VIOTTI

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