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Recently it came to light that a sixth form teacher in the Humberside region of Yorkshire, Dr. Thelma Geneva Fox, was sacked for bypassing her school’s firewall via proxy for personal use, allegedly doing her online food shopping from school. A National College for Teaching and Leadership professional misconduct panel found her guilty of “unprofessional conduct and behaviour which have brought the profession into disrepute.”
The teacher misconduct panel chose not to proceed on allegations of inappropriate comments and language that Dr. Fox is reported to have used when addressing pupils at Longcroft School and Sixth Form College in East Yorkshire. One claim stipulated she told a pupil: “Your mother is like a chicken coop, cocks fly in and out all day.” Ms. Fox is also alleged to have stated: “I want to dress up as [Unnamed Pupil] but I can’t fit 20 cocks in my mouth.” The panel threw out the claims, as hearsay from pupils was not considered admissible evidence and none of the pupils involved appeared before the panel.
Ms. Fox, 41, who lives in Hull, East Yorkshire, denied making the alleged comments while teaching at Longcroft, initially as a supply teacher in 2013, and then in a full-time IT teaching role in 2014 until she was dismissed in January 2015.
Findings published on behalf of the Secretary of State said in part: “The panel has found that Dr. Fox engaged in conduct that had some potential to cause harm and failed to act as a role model.”
The report further stated that: “The panel was satisfied on the balance of probabilities that Dr. Fox’s explanation about her online shopping order was not entirely correct,” and while the panel accepted that accessing Asda’s shopping website may have been part of the reason Ms. Fox bypassed the school’s system by using a proxy server, it “does not accept it was the sole reason.”
Yet a check online shows Ms. Fox appears to have a chequered past as well. According to court records, prior to leaving the United States for good in 1995, Ms. Fox, then still known as “Thelma Geneva Vaughan,” was arrested and charged with a criminal felony for passing bad cheques in the state of Oklahoma in 1994. The charges were dropped in 2003 after restitution was made.
More recently, in November this year, a complaint for cyber-bullying was filed against Ms. Fox with Greater Manchester Police arising from a disagreement with another woman via social media in which Ms. Fox threatened her with bodily harm. The police report alleges that after the incident, Ms. Fox shared photos of her family, including that of an underage minor, as well as personal contact details of her family, and encouraged other online contacts she associated with to harass and intimidate the family, more specifically by visiting them at their home in the Northwest.
Though the story concerning her teaching career broke across national media headlines, including Yahoo!, The Daily Mail, Metro, and The Sun, nothing has been said about one significant issue not addressed in the panel’s report: exactly what kind of doctor is Thelma Geneva Fox? The assumption would be that, as an academic with several years of teaching experience, she would hold a PhD, yet there is nothing to be found online of a published academic dissertation.
Ms. Fox’s LinkedIn profile states that she holds a Medical Doctor degree with a specialisation in Emergency Medicine from the University of Maryland, College Park in the United States, stating she graduated in 1999. However, a check with the registrar’s office indicated that they have no record of her ever being enrolled as a student there under her current name or any of her married or maiden names. In addition the University of Maryland, College Park, does not have a college of medicine and does not confer degrees in medicine.
The University of Maryland does have a School of Medicine in Baltimore, but it is a completely separate entity from the University of Maryland, College Park, with a separate campus. Although both universities are part of the University System of Maryland, they are entirely different academic institutions. The University of Maryland School of Medicine does not provide distance-learning classes, which Ms. Fox would have needed during the years she claims to have been in medical school because she was not resident in the United States at the time, nor does the University of Maryland School of Medicine have a record of Ms. Fox ever being a student there under her present name or previous ones.
The path to becoming an Emergency Room doctor in the United States (which is the same as an Accident and Emergency physician in the UK) is a long and arduous one, requiring at least eleven years of study: a four-year undergraduate degree including medical pre-requisite courses and four further years of medical school, followed by a three-year hospital residency, followed by board certification, yet in her LinkedIn CV Ms. Fox alleges to have completed all of those requirements by the time she was 24 years old in 1999. To have done so would be virtually impossible by that age, particularly since she was living in Europe for most of that time.
A much older CV of Ms. Fox’s is also available online, in which she claims to hold a degree in medicine from the “University of Maryland European Division,” although it gives no date of graduation. A Google search for the University of Maryland European Division redirects to the website for the University of Maryland, University College (“UMUC”), whose website says its “mission is to provide top quality education and services to U.S. military communities in the European and Central Commands”
According to Wikipedia, however, UMUC “is not a division of the University of Maryland, College Park, but rather a separate institution within the University System of Maryland.” The University of Maryland, University College, being primarily a distance-learning university, does not offer degrees in medicine.
UMUC’s registrar’s office confirmed that although Ms. Fox was enrolled as a distance-learning student there as “Thelma Geneva Raff” (the surname being her first married name) for one year only during the academic year 1998-99, she was not awarded a degree, medical or otherwise.
If Ms. Fox was a foreign-trained doctor holding a medical degree from a non-UK university, she would be required to be licensed and registered with the General Medical Council of Great Britain in order to call herself a doctor in the UK, but a quick phone call to the GMC confirms that Thelma Geneva Fox has not been registered or licensed as a doctor in the UK under her current surname, nor under her previous ones.
It should be noted that falsely claiming to be a medical doctor in the United Kingdom, or of giving the impression of being legally licensed to practice medicine in the UK, is a serious criminal offence under The Medical Act 1983, which states: “’Any person who wilfully and falsely pretends to be or uses the name or title of physician, doctor of medicine, licentiate in medicine and surgery, bachelor of medicine, surgeon, general practitioner or apothecary, or any name, title, addition or description implying that he is registered under any provision of this Act, or that he is recognised by law as a physician or surgeon or licentiate in medicine and surgery or a practitioner in medicine or an apothecary, shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.’”
This is not to say that Ms. Fox is not a doctor of medicine. Perhaps there is an explanation for the reason she claims in different places to hold degrees in medicine from two different American universities, neither of which awards degrees in medicine, and one of which states Ms. Fox was only enrolled there for one year while the other states she was never enrolled at all. Maybe there is a logical explanation of why she calls herself “Dr. Fox” despite never being on the GMC’s doctor register. One thing is certain: a look into the background of Thelma Geneva Fox raises far more questions than it answers.