Schools failed to stop teacher's abuse
Friday 9 Nov 2012 3:05 p.m.
The former deputy principal of a Far North school who sexually abused young pupils got away with it for more than 12 years despite concerns being raised at a previous school and police being called to investigate.
James Parker, 37, who taught at Kaitaia's Pamapuria School, in August admitted 49 charges of sexual offending involving around a dozen boys aged 11 to 13. He will be sentenced next week.
It has since emerged Parker was suspected of abusing his pupils at his previous job, at nearby Oturu School, where he taught in 1998 and 1999.
In a report released this week, the commissioner of Pamapuria School Larry Forbes says there were a number of reasons Parker was not caught since he began working there in 1999, despite the suspicions of other teachers.
The report says Parker quickly established himself as a popular and well-regarded teacher, sometimes called by pupils "Uncle Jamie", who organised the school's kapa haka group.
However, it also describes testimony of how he would cuddle boys, have them overnight at his house and would be jumping around with them on a mattress in just his boxer shorts.
However, because Parker had adult girlfriends it was not believed he was abusing boys.
During his investigation Mr Forbes spoke to 35 people, including Pamapuria staff, students and their parents.
Pamapuria principal Stephen Hovell declined to be interviewed for the investigation, and Fiona Lovatt Davis, the former principal of Oturu School, is overseas and unreachable.
Mr Forbes said there was no information to reliably confirm that Mr Hovell was ever informed of concern raised in 1998 that Parker was showering and sleeping with Oturu pupils.
A 2009 police and Child, Youth and Family investigation about complaints from Pamapuria pupils about similar behaviour went nowhere when the allegations were withdrawn.
Mr Forbes said the school board's response to the 2009 complaint was "overly focused on the welfare of James Parker". The Teachers Council was also not informed.
Mr Forbes said Mr Hovell had limited the details available to the trustees and there was no formal warning to Parker to stop his out-of-school contact with children.
Nor were there any directions to the parents of the children who complained.
He made a number of recommendations to prevent such teachers slipping through the net again.