School Board caught with pants down

For the first time in eleven years someone has been sanctioned for not putting in a mandatory report to the then Teachers Council.

A former school principal has been censured for serious misconduct after he failed to report sexual offending complaints against one of his teachers, who went on to abuse more children.

The Board of Trustees and the principal have been caught with their pants down.

During a two-day disciplinary tribunal hearing in Napier in December, Bremer denied he had acted inappropriately, saying the complaints against Harter did not appear to be serious at the time.

Bremer and a member of the school’s board of trustees at the time, Jol Bates, told the hearing the school followed what it believed to be an appropriate process.

Bates, who is an employment lawyer, said the board, not Bremer, was responsible for dealing with the Harter complaints because it was the teacher’s employer.

Yet this is a government-owned school staffed by registered teachers.

Fortunately Whaleoil also has access to the final decision (redacted). It appears the school tried to cover up the offending and paid out the paedophile teacher for a resignation.  

171. The members of this Tribunal are not altogether unfamiliar with employment law and the way in which the overwhelming majority of employment disputes are resolved, and it comes as no surprise to the Tribunal that Mr Bates’ approach and advice to his fellow board and committee members was to move things towards a private mediation with a view to a confidential negotiation and ultimately to a settlement. That, of course, is exactly what happened. Mr Bates arranged a mediator, proposed mediation to Harter, and, on 24 June 2014, a mediation took place. As we have already said, the Tribunal is unable to look past the cloak of confidentiality which applies – and quite rightly applies – to all mediations. So we know nothing about what transpired. All we know is that a settlement was reached which involved the termination of the board’s contract of employment with Harter and that the board (and we deliberately refer to the board in this context) communicated with the world by way of a letter signed by the respondent, which, though it may have had a germ of truth in it in explaining Harter’s departure by reference to his health, was far from a complete disclosure of what had transpired. We have no doubt that one of the things negotiated at the mediation was the terms of that letter, and that, having settled the matter on those terms, the school, the board, the committee, Mr Bates and the respondent had no choice, from a contractual perspective at least, but to communicate the reasons for Harter’s departure in those terms.

They saw no problem trying to hush this all up and hide Mr Harter’s offending from the general public and the Ministry of Education.

But that isn’t all:

3.3(b): Despite knowing that Mr Harter provided private lessons, namely music and/or drama to students outside of the School, did not take any or any appropriate steps to ensure that students or members of the wider community did not attend those lessons and/or had protections in place if they did attend;

And guess what? He went on to offend there as well.

So what did they tell parents at the school?

…the parents of children at the school who were taught by Harter received two notices concerning him. She [victim’s mother] said that the first informed them that Harter was having some time off school “for family reasons” and the second informed them that “due to health reasons Mr Harter was no longer employed by the school but that the school wished him well in the future”. She said that those notices conveyed no indication to her that she should have any concerns about Harter in relation to her daughters.

This is disgusting.

There will be more released in due course.


– Fairfax


Decision of the NZ Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal


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  • dennis

    Employment law needs to be rewritten as the objective has turned out to be fine the employer and cover up the employees unacceptable behaviour.

    • Urbanviper

      There is sadly too much of that going on. All an employee has to do is raise a Personal Grievance via the union or Community Law and the employer is bound by good faith to follow the process, which also means considering a payout. Any grey areas at all the employer is in trouble. They’ll never get their costs back and huge pressure is placed on them by the requirements of good faith and mediation to consider a payout. The default position then comes down to not whether to pay the employee out but ‘how much?’. Once paid off and signed off by the mediator then the employer has to give the employee a certificate of service and never say anything bad about them. A wily employee will raise this PG when the employer is getting close, but hasn’t yet proven serious misconduct so it might only be after they’ve been paid off that all sorts of wrong doing is uncovered. And guess what? They can’t tell the next employer.

      • dennis

        When rung by a future employer about a person we have dismissed and they ask would you re employ this person I say no. If they don’t ask the question I prompt them. I recall reading somewhere that it is an offence to give a false reference.

        • Urbanviper

          However it is also an offence and you can be sued [edit: a “penalty imposed by the Authority”] for breaching a settlement. Generally the settlement will have somewhere in it that you can’t make disparaging remarks and that both sides agree the relationship ended on mutual terms (re-writing history).

          • dennis

            Thank you I think. I am not sure I wanted to know that.

          • Urbanviper

            That is why it is a growing practice not to give references but simply a certificate of service. It is a practice that started in the UK due to the risk of litigation and is making its appearance here.

  • Muffin

    I’m running for a board of trustees this year. Must say this isn’t the route I would have taken.

  • john Doe

    As adults it is our responsibility to ensure the safety of our children. We entrust that responsibility to the Principal of schools whilst they are in that care. For an incident like this to be swept under the carpet is monstrous. It seems to be happening all too often. Principals are well paid and must be held accountable for the safety of our children when in their charge. No ifs, no buts, no excuses, it is time for principals, Boards and Unions to look in their back yards and search out these pedophiles that are that are hiding behind their teaching registrations and expose them for what they are.

  • Michelle

    Waiting for the left to call for an enquiry into this

    not going to hold breath

    it is shocking that this is happening but have heard of one small school doing the same but it was more to do with money
    The teacher got a lovely reference and went on their way with nothing on their record because the board didn’t know what else they could do

  • pirate vs ninja

    Most BOTs are woefully inept at handling serious incidents such as this. They receive minimal training and virtually no supervision from the Ministry. When issues do arise, they find contact with the Ministry difficult (frequent staff changes, staff too busy), and they are often open to bullying from union reps.

    • Urbanviper

      But that is why they don’t have to handle it at this level. The reporting requirements are very clear. A school is not capable of investigating and ‘handling’ such a serious set of allegations. The reporting requirements say that such allegations have to be passed up to the Education Council for people better trained to handle. The problem, as we have seen, is BOTs not passing on the complaints because they feel they have to dig a bit deeper themselves, or because of the collective agreement or NZEI interference to treat it as purely an employment matter. If you read the decision above you will see a lot of emphasis on the confusion between the BOTs role as an employer and as a reporter to higher authorities. This water has been intentionally muddied by unions and employment lawyers and even principals fall through the cracks. Fortunately with the Vulnerable Children Act 2014 more help is on the way. The Ministry is funding training for teachers, BOTs and principals and all schools have until 1 July this year to become compliant. I guess if you have school age children one thing I’d be asking of the BOT and principal is what training they have gone to (just because it is provided it doesn’t mean they’ll go) and what steps have they taken to be compliant.

  • Momo

    I’ve just become motivated to run for the Board of our local primary school when my daughter starts there next year.
    The Board, Principal and anyone else involved should be sacked.

    • Bryan

      if that is your agenda to be selected for the board you will find that much of what you think the job is, is completely different.
      I was involved with running training sessions for new board members and the lead lady would spend everyday taking calls from school principles, who had board members operating far beyond their elected powers because they did not understand what they we actually there to do.
      You are not there to do the heads job, employ his staff and certainly not to change the syllabus which is set down in law via the education ministry, you are there to OVERSEE the Admin of the school.and to assist the staff in the operation of the school.
      One of the biggest failings of the school board system is that many schools are only employing people of similar type to themselves, and we are losing the rich diversity we used to have in our education system with the broad range of teachers who brought all their skills and personalities to their school.
      The biggest loss is the complete drain of Male teachers from our schools as PC and feminism has made the whole environment so toxic that men have just given up and walked away, I watched 3 months ago a retiring male principal read to a group of new entrants, and he had them completely spell bound as he read them a story and he welcomed them to his school after 40 years teaching it was a pleasure to observe and the kids were all sitting on the edge of their seats being educated by a skilled master.