SA Council for Educators to question ex-Bishops teacher who 'sexually engaged' pupils
Cape Town – 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 co-
operation 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.