Education Ministry boss Lesley Longstone this morning fled from Parliament when confronted with questions about a sex offender who has been working in an Auckland school.
A ministerial inquiry was launched yesterday to uncover how the man, who cannot be named because of suppression orders, was able to elude Government departments and find work in at least one primary school and potentially up to eight schools using multiple identities.
Parents at the school where the man was teaching were told of the situation on Monday, and this morning one parent told Radio New Zealand there had not been adequate support for the families following the revelations.
She said parents wanted qualified advisers or a trauma team at the school to provide advice about talking to the children about what had happened.
Ministry officials, including chief executive Ms Longstone, this morning appeared before a parliamentary select committee for a financial review, but left quickly afterwards, refusing to answer media questioning.
Reporters followed Ms Longstone through Parliament and out on to the street, asking whether she had anything to say to the parents, but she would not reply.
The issue of support for parents was touched on briefly during the committee hearing when Green Party MP Catherine Delahunty asked what processes the ministry followed when “a teacher has been identified, for example, as a sexual predator in a school,” to involve parents in the issue.
Ms Longstone did not comment specifically on the case, but answered in a more general context.
“Where schools feel that they need additional support, or as soon as we are notified, we have something called a traumatic incident team, and well-established procedures for responding to incidents,” she said.
“What the ministry does is it provides support and advice for schools in order for them to manage the situation themselves.”
Ms Longstone said she had “no reason to believe there are systemic problems with the vetting of teachers”, and the ministerial inquiry would test that.
The offender, who is now in custody, has been given two extended supervision orders, which are reserved for sexual offenders with a high-risk of re-offending, and which imposed release conditions preventing him from associating with people under 16 or from working without the approval of a probation officer.
He had dodged authorities for years by using more than 10 aliases and was arrested in South Auckland a week ago, appearing in the Auckland District Court on charges of breaching release conditions.
There is no indication at this stage of him illegally engaging with pupils as a teacher.
The names of the schools that may be affected cannot be published, but the man was convicted in 2004 for three acts of indecent assault and two acts of assault against his 14-year-old nephew.
He was found guilty of skin on skin touching and punching his nephew in the head. The sentencing judge noted the man’s abuse of trust and the degree of force used to overcome his nephew’s protests. He was found not guilty of sexual violation.
He was sentenced to two years’ jail and released in 2005 on an extended supervision order. But the order could not be served on the man because he disappeared, and was not located again until August 2009. During that time he had used more than 10 aliases, changing his name by deed poll.
He is understood to have had 77 criminal convictions – mainly for dishonesty and disobedience charges – and he lied to the Corrections Department psychologist by giving her the name of a school and principal as character references that did not exist.
Last week a school referred the man to the police after learning he had used multiple identities.
- Teachers riled by criticism of education system
- No decision yet on south Auckland charter school
- Generous readers to rescue
- McMartin Preschool abuse-case fiasco led to new child interview techniques
- Teacher arrested for child porn