An Auckland school principal has taken leave as an investigation gets under way into the hiring of a sexual abuser. Photo / 123rf
An Auckland school principal has taken leave as an investigation is conducted into the hiring of a sexual abuser as a teacher aide.
The Herald understands the principal is on leave and a barrister has been hired to conduct the inquiry, while the Ministry of Education confirmed the principal “was working off site”.
The ministry said it believed the board of trustees and the senior leadership of the school were “responding appropriately”.
The Herald contacted the principal yesterday but did not receive a response.
At a heated board of trustees meeting last week, one parent threatened to remove their child from the school unless the principal was suspended. Another parent, a lawyer, said if the school did not take their complaints seriously he would take legal action against the board.
The attendees were furious that the school hired the young man as a teacher aide despite a police check identifying his past record. He had previously admitted to raping one young woman and sexually violating another.
The teacher aide was related to the principal.
“How can the board act with any integrity if the principal isn’t stood down?” one father said at the meeting.
“The buck stops with them.”
“She has to be suspended,” one mother said. “We don’t feel safe if she stays.”
The principal was not at the meeting of about 35 people, which included Ministry of Education officials and a facilitator from the NZ School Trustees Association.
Asked whether action would be taken against the principal, board members said they did not want to pre-empt an independent inquiry which was about to start. They had taken legal advice throughout the process, they said.
The board has previously said there was no conflict of interest because the principal was not involved in hiring the teacher aide.
But parents said she had a duty to disclose her relative’s background.
“I don’t know what disclosure you received, but any reasonable person should have disclosed her knowledge of this person’s history,” one father said.
“She may have, but we don’t know. If she didn’t, that’s unforgivable.”
Several parents said they did not blame the board, which was in a difficult position. But they said it needed to act decisively to preserve the confidence of the parents and students.
“The reputation of the school is mud now,” one father said.
“And we love this school. That is what is heartbreaking.”
The board has hired a child psychologist to speak to students. It is also appointing an independent investigator to look into the employment of the young man, who resigned last week after his record was revealed. He had worked at the school for up to three years, parents said.
Victim advocate Ruth Money, who is supporting two women who were abused by the teacher aide, said at the meeting that she felt that the board had been misled by the principal.
“I believe the board has been conned,” she said. “By one person.”
However, she strongly criticised the board for an email which was sent yesterday to parents by a PR firm.
She said the email had minimised the teacher aide’s actions and suggested that media reporting on the case had been inaccurate.
The reporting was accurate, Money said, and the board were effectively calling vulnerable women liars.
The board was also asked why the police vetting forms were not held on the staff member’s file. A board member said it had been school policy not to attach the vetting forms to staff records, but this policy was now being reviewed.
The board said it would not be commenting further while the investigation is under way. It is scheduled to be completed in term four of the school year.