Viotti
Viotti

Teacher-turned-model's sex acts with five students

A water polo coach at one of South Africa's most prestigious schools engaged in "sexual misconduct" with at least five students, an investigation has found.

Married teacher and former model Fiona Viotti slept with her students and sent them explicit photos and videos, which were circulated on social media and even made their way to PornHub.

The 30-year-old resigned from the $15,000-a-year (R150,000) Bishops Diocesan School in Cape Town in October amid allegations of an inappropriate relationship with an 18-year-old student.

Ms Viotti, the niece of former Springboks coach Nick Mallett, reportedly sent threatening messages to the student via WhatsApp when he tried to break off the relationship.

She resigned with "immediate effect" after the news became public and the school brought in lawyers to conduct an investigation into the alleged "serious misconduct".

The school later announced that several more pupils may have been involved with the former teen water polo star, who was featured in South African Sports Illustrated in 2009 as one of its "Beauties of Sport".

On Monday, Bishops announced it had completed its investigation - but that Ms Viotti could not be disciplined because she had resigned.

"As the teacher resigned from Bishops with immediate effect on the October 11, 2019, no disciplinary action can be taken against her by the school for these breaches," headmaster Guy Pearson in a statement, News24 reported.

 

Water polo coach Fiona Viotii. Picture: Facebook
Water polo coach Fiona Viotii. Picture: Facebook

The school said Ms Viotti, in a letter from her lawyers, initially indicated she would fully co-operate with the investigation.

"However, a request by the investigators for her to attend an interview with them was later refused," Mr Pearson said.

"Furthermore, the investigators were informed that she was not prepared to make any written comments regarding the merits of the matter."

The key findings of the investigation were that between 2013 and 2019, while employed as a teacher, Ms Viotti "engaged in sexual misconduct with at least five pupils".

Investigators "were not able to ascertain with certainty to whom she had sent video or photographic images that circulated on social media", and they found no evidence that indicated the school knew anything about the sexual misconduct.

The investigation concluded that Ms Viotti breached the Bishops Code of Professional Conduct for Teaching Staff and the SA Council of Educators' Code of Professional Ethics.

No criminal charges have been laid. Mr Pearson said investigators told the school that it needed to report the matter to the "appropriate authorities" and that it was co-operating.

The parents of the affected students had also been informed of their rights and responsibilities, the school said.

 

The 30-year-old engaged in sexual misconduct with ‘at least’ five students. Picture: Facebook
The 30-year-old engaged in sexual misconduct with ‘at least’ five students. Picture: Facebook

The investigators were satisfied the school had the necessary policies and procedures in place to address sexual misconduct between teachers and students and that it had taken all reasonable steps.

"The school will consider all findings and recommendations made by the investigators to ensure that we continue to make Bishops a safe environment for all our pupils and teachers," Mr Pearson said.

"As a school we are deeply saddened by these events and remain committed to ensuring the mental health and wellbeing of those affected."

Ms Viotti has not yet commented on the findings. Her lawyer William Booth earlier told News24 his client had been placed under "medical care" after the news broke.

Mr Booth said he had also had to deal with getting a video taken down from PornHub, warning that it was a criminal offence to post images without the consent of the person and that his team were investigating who had uploaded the material.

Both the school and the SACE had opted to hold off releasing the findings of the investigation to prevent any distractions during end-of-year exams.

In October, the SACE warned of the "alarming" rate of teacher-student relationships and the "emerging trend" of female teachers abusing high school boys.

 

‘She needs counselling.’ Picture: Facebook
‘She needs counselling.’ Picture: Facebook

In research presented to a South African parliamentary committee on education, the body cited sports, coaching, physical education, cultural activities and outings as environments that "facilitate" the incidents.

"At that meeting, (the) SACE was clear that irrespective of how small the age gap between a learner and an educator might be, there is a line that should not be crossed," committee chairwoman Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba told News24.

"He remains a learner and she remains an educator. Even if a learner is above the age of consent, there is still a lot of dynamics at play and he remains a schoolchild."

In a note to parents, Ms Viotti's father Dave Mallet, who heads up the school's rugby team, said he was grateful for the "messages of support we have received in the wake of the devastating events involving my daughter".

"Tough times ahead, no doubt - but I'll be soldiering on, supporting my family as best I can … and sticking to my post in Founders House, too," he said in the October letter.

"I've just met with the lads to say that, as far as is possible, I need them to keep their heads down (don't tiptoe around me!) and try to adopt a 'business as usual' approach. I can't let this derail their final term."

He added, "Obviously Fiona's health and safety is our priority right now and we will be doing all we can to help her pull through this."

 

frank.chung@news.com.au



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