Teachers at Bishop Bell were aware of the gossip surrounding maths teacher Jeremy Forrest and his relationship with his pupil, a court has heard.
Forrest, a 30-year-old married man, is standing trial for abducting the youngster, who cannot be named for legal reasons, back in September last year. He has denied the charge against him and is standing trial at Lewes Crown Court.
The court heard rumours about the pair started circulating at the school in Priory Road in Eastbourne following a trip to LA.
Prosecutor Richard Barton QC opened the case on Monday (June 10) and told the court the young girl, who is said to have been ‘infatuated’ with Forrest, had told him about some personal problems.
Mr Barton said, “In response to this, he hugged her and then kissed her on the head.
“From that time at least, if not before, he must have been aware she was a vulnerable girl.”
He went on to say Forrest and the girl were the subject of further rumours after they were seen by people on the school trip to be holding hands on the return flight to the UK.
Mr Barton said, “Teachers at the school became aware of the gossip, and on February 24 Neil Piltman, head of the upper school, spoke to Mr Forrest about it and advised him that he ought to distance himself from the girl.
“Mr Piltman also spoke by telephone to the girl’s mother and she said she was aware her daughter had a crush on Mr Forrest.”
The assistant head at the school, who has responsibilities for child protection, is also said to have spoken to Forrest the following week.
Mr Barton said, “She asked him whether he wanted her to talk to the girl about the crush, but he said he could handle it and would keep his distance.
“It was her opinion that he did not seem that worried about the crush. Mr Forrest denied that there was anything behind the gossip at all.”
In March he was given ‘clear and firm’ advice from the deputy head Mark Talbot, that he must not encourage the girl, according to the prosecution.
However, Twitter messages between Forrest and the girl were then brought to the attention of senior staff at the school.
Mr Barton said both Forrest and the teenage schoolgirl were spoken to about the messages and both denied there was anything untoward going on.
It was later that year, around June, the pair’s relationship became sexual.
Bishop Bell moved the girl out of his maths class around the time of the new school year in September 2012 but Mr Barton added, “Of course by now this was of little effect because they were in regular contact outside school hours.”
They fled to France on September 20.
The trial continues.