Oh dear Lord, when will this end?

Sex pest Damian Christopher Gillard. Photo / Greg Bowker

Sex pest Damian Christopher Gillard. Photo / Greg Bowker

Hardly a week goes by without some news about a teacher having trouble with sexual boundaries when it comes to?students. ?Jared Savage reports

An Auckland school failed to act on concerns raised by two teenage students who felt unsafe around their teacher – six years before he was arrested for sexually grooming one of them and other underage girls.

The lack of records on the employment file of Damian Christopher Gillard at Papatoetoe High School also meant the 2006 complaints were missed by a 2009 police inquiry over similar allegations of which he was later acquitted.

Gillard, the head of the languages department, was eventually convicted of making sexual advances to one of the pupils who complained – and six other young girls – after a second police investigation in 2012.

He was sentenced in May to 9 years in prison for a raft of sexual crimes, dating back to 1994 when he was a teacher at Greenmeadows Intermediate in Manurewa.

He was found guilty of indecent acts against seven students, all younger than 16, such as kissing or touching their legs and breasts under the pretext of searching them for cigarettes.

The offending escalated to sex with a 14-year-old girl.

So that’s one thing. ?The other problem is that when these concerns are raised, “the system” becomes a huge obstacle. ?Granted, we don’t want to get the torches and pitch forks out straight away, but there is enough evidence now that concerns about teachers aren’t progressed through the system in a way that responsibly protects existing and future victims. ?

In sentencing Gillard, Judge Charles Blackie said the former professional rugby player had “grossly abused” the trust placed in him.

“The community puts a high degree of trust in school teachers.

“Every day when a parent sends a child to school, he or she does so in the knowledge that the child will be safe …

“A high standard is expected of school teachers in their dealings with their pupils because school pupils are vulnerable.”

One of the victims was a 15-year-old student propositioned by Gillard who offered to pay her money for sexual favours in 2006.

Imagine that. ?Professional rugby players being sex pests to 15 year olds.

But the problem is: ?he should have been stopped earlier.

The Teachers Council did not investigate the behaviour of Damian Gillard following his acquittal on drugs and indecent act charges at the 2009 trial.

The council, to be replaced by a new teaching authority, refused an Official Information Act request for correspondence about the earlier charges on the grounds of privacy.

Head of the council Dr Peter Lind said there had been a mandatory report to the Complaints Assessment Committee (CAC) but Gillard was found not guilty and there was “no further evidence that suggested he should be subject to disciplinary action” so the matter was not referred to the Disciplinary Tribunal.

“Please note that the CAC should only inquire into matters that are not identical to those which are raised in a criminal charge and which have resulted in an acquittal.”

Board of Trustees chairman Ben Taufua said his “hands were tied” from an employment perspective because of the Teachers Council decision.

“He was acquitted so the Teachers Council didn’t do anything, so neither could we.”

But Mr Taufua said the new disciplinary body, Educanz, should take a wider look at prosecutions against teachers even when they were acquitted.

I hope they can, I hope they will, and I hope they do.

The pendulum has to swing away from protecting teachers at all cost, a little more towards protecting children and young people?at least equally.

We have no rape culture in New Zealand. ?But we do have a serious problem with dealing to sex pests in a timely manner. ?The number of victims they leave in their wake should be greatly reduced.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said Educanz would make changes that will further strengthen disciplinary proceedings and address the ongoing registration of any teacher facing charges. These include the development of a Code of Conduct and all serious allegations will be automatically sent to the Disciplinary Tribunal.

It’s the wrong end of the problem. ?What are we going to do to get these perverts away from our kids sooner?

 

– NZ Herald

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