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Teacher vetting essential after further sexual abuse case

Press Release

Teacher vetting essential as another teacher sexually abuses students

A 37-year-old Far North teacher has admitted 49 charges of sexually abusing juvenile boys. James Robertson Parker struggled with his emotions while 25 charges of indecent assault, 15 of performing an indecent act and nine of unlawful sexual connection were read to him, each answered with a plea of guilty.

Parker - a teacher and deputy principal at Pamapuria School, outside Kaitaia, at the time of his arrest last month - was remanded in custody for sentencing on November 15. Meanwhile, Parker was permitted to read a statement in which he said his thoughts were with the young people he had abused and their families. Words cannot express the total shame, guilt, regret and sorrow that consumes me day and night because of the things I have done.”

ECPAT Child ALERT, a child protection agency says ” It would have been better that Parker had thought more about this before committing the abuse on young boys whose lives will be never be the same. Having remorse once you have been caught does little to excuse this behaviour. It was a gross abuse of trust and he exploited his position of power and influence over the children entrusted to him as a teacher and deputy principal.”

This case follows closely on the release by Education Minister Hekia Parata of the Ministerial Inquiry into the employment of convicted sex offender, Henry Te Rito Miki, in the education sector. The Inquiry, conducted by former ombudsman Mel Smith and former Education Review Office chief executive Dr Judith Aitken made 35 recommendations which have been considered by a cross-Government working party and an implementation plan approved by Cabinet.

The recommendations have been divided into seven key areas:

• The role and functions of the New Zealand Teachers Council
• Name change policy processes
• Identity checks
• Information sharing
• Offender management and police matters
• Education workforce and employment practices
• School governance

“The responsibility for providing a safe environment for children is one to be shared by many” says ECPAT Child ALERT. “ It is good to see this Inquiry bringing about a more robust process for vetting teachers but there is also a responsibility on boards of trustees, the Teachers Council and even parents. And it applies to every situation where children are under care. The basic requirement of establishing sound employment policies and vetting processes and having well established child protection policies belong not only schools but also to day care centres and youth groups such as scouts, guides, church groups, sports clubs.”

Information released by the Teachers Council under the Official Information Act indicates Miki is unlikely to be the only teacher with convictions for sex crimes. "We are not able to advise how many teachers are working who have convictions for assault or crimes of a sexual nature because we do not hold information on which teachers are working," said council director Peter Lind. No law prevents convicted sex offenders from working, but the Teachers Council can place strict conditions on teachers with such convictions.

ECPAT Child ALERT is a registered charitable trust working to prevent the sexual exploitation of children.

ends


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