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UK art teacher banned from profession over 'suggestive' photo shoot involving topless teen students

Huxlow Science College
Huxlow Science College is a secondary school located in Irthlingborough, Northamptonshire, England. |

A British art teacher who was previously fired for allowing her female students — some as young as 15 — to pose topless for what she called an “art” project is defending her actions after she was banned from teaching.

A panel on the Teaching Regulation Agency, which investigates misconduct and other matters involving British schools, recommended a prohibition order to the Secretary of State preventing Emma Wright from teaching in the United Kingdom indefinitely on June 10.

Wright, 41, taught art at Huxlow Science College in Irthlingborough, Northamptonshire, England, until 2018, when she was terminated for permitting a photo shoot involving minors posing topless to take place in her classroom.

As explained in the document compiled by a professional conduct panel, Wright allowed one or more students at the secondary school to produce photographs featuring teenage girls holding “cigarette(s) and/or alcohol container(s)” and posing for pictures with their hands or alcohol containers covering “their otherwise naked breasts” for their art portfolios.

Other photographs showed teens “posing with their hand inside their underwear or in a pose which simulated masturbation,” “exposing their torso whilst wearing school uniform” and “posing in swimwear.”

School officials launched an investigation in December 2017 after the school’s head of design discovered the student portfolios featuring students, who were under the age of 16 at the time, in suggestive poses. As a result of the investigation, Wright was terminated the following year.

Wright admitted to the Teaching Regulation Agency that she had introduced an artist to the class who specialized in “suggestive pictures.” However, as noted in the panel’s report, Wright insisted that she “told the students this did not mean for them to do suggestive pictures” and “told the pupils that she did not expect them to be naked, but to use their arm, face, or something.”

The report concluded that despite a “low risk of repetition” of such an incident, the panel “did not find that Mrs. Wright had fully reflected on the safeguarding implications of allowing pupils to take photographs of themselves or others in a state of undress.”

Additionally, the panel determined that Wright’s actions constituted a breach of the Teachers’ Standards.

The panel found that Wright failed to “uphold public trust in the profession and maintain high standards of ethics and behaviour, within and outside school, by having regard for the need to safeguard pupils’ well-being, in accordance with statutory provisions.”

The Teachers’ Standards also call on educators to “have proper and professional regard for the ethos, policies and practices of the school in which they teach” and have “an understanding of, and always act within, the statutory frameworks which set out their professional duties and responsibilities.”

Before her termination, Wright taught art at Huxlow, located approximately 100 miles north of London, since 2004. In an exclusive interview with The Sun, Wright reacted to the prohibition order: “I really feel very strongly about it. I am really quite upset about it. It is a position I never thought I would be in.”

“Those students were wonderful students. I have no bad feelings towards those students at all,” she added. 

Calling herself a victim of “deep injustice,” Wright said she would not appeal the ruling. She now runs a care home.

While Wright said she would no longer pursue teaching, she must wait until 2024 to apply to revoke the prohibition order. 

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