A scapegoat or accountability?

February 24th, 2013 at 7:17 am by David Farrar

Kathryn Powley in HoS reports:

, the principal of the school where confessed paedophile preyed on children has been sacked.

Stephen Hovell claims he has been made a scapegoat for Parker sexually abusing pupils at the primary school in the Far North. He plans to fight for his job.

Parker – Pamapuria’s former deputy principal – is in prison after pleading guilty in August to 49 child-sex offences, but is yet to plead on 23 other charges, including four of sexually violating male pupils.

This is going to court, so I’m not commenting on the legality of the sacking. But I will suggest that it is not quite a case of blaming someone for what happened on their watch, that they had no idea at all about.

The Northland Age commented:

The fact that Parker was hosting boys at his home was well known, even if what was going on there was not. The school administration does not seem to have been falling over itself to investigate allegations that swirled around the man, and, according to the report, it might have been the use of one word as opposed to two others in the Education Act 1989 that allowed him to continue offending for as long as he did. …

 Meanwhile the glaring omission from this 37-page report is input from Stephen Hovell. As principal at Pamapuria his role in this tragic story is pivotal, and the fact that he declined to be interviewed can lead to only one conclusion, one that is not favourable to Mr Hovell. …

There are degrees of culpability in this story, and some of it belongs to Stephen Hovell.

I really don’t see how you can say this is a case of scapegoating. Also if Hovell did refuse to co-operate with the inquiry then his position was clearly untenable.

The Herald also reported:

Parker’s closeness to some families and his mana as kapa haka leader made it hard for people to suspect or accuse him. Others felt their concerns would not be acted on because he was close to principal Stephen Hovell.

Before 2012, the closest Parker came to prosecution was in 2009 when a boy told his sister about the abuse. She told her mother, who went to police. Two other boys were named as victims. However, one said nothing had happened and the two others retracted their allegations.

Detective Dean Gorrie of Kaitaia CIB could not lay charges but wrote Mr Hovell a sternly worded letter about Parker’s sleepovers, saying they had to stop immediately.

It was not clear whether the letter was read in full to the school board of trustees, which was given only limited information by Mr Hovell.

To be honest I’m surprised he didn’t resign long ago. To refuse to co-operate with the inquiry and to then commence legal proceedings to keep your job suggests a focus on his own welfare continues to win out over the welfare of his charges.

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28 Responses to “A scapegoat or accountability?”

  1. Lloyd (125 comments) says:

    As a Board of Trustees member at a school, I can assure you that if it was found that any part of a letter from the police highlighting serious behaviour from a staff member was HIDDEN or not provided to me by the principal, that would be the beginning of the end of their position. It sounds like the BOT was the last to know the full details.

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  2. Chuck Bird (4,922 comments) says:

    I think the principal should face criminal charges.

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  3. jims_whare (403 comments) says:

    As WO would say, I bet he is a registered teacher……

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  4. Akaroa (577 comments) says:

    Re: your final condemnatory comment, David. I ask why shouldn’t he “……commence legal proceedings to keep (his) job…..”?.

    Two points. Firstly, and most importantly, we don’t know the full facts. I learned many years ago how embarrassing it can be to prognosticate on a subject without being in possession of the full facts.

    Then: “……refuse to co-operate with the inquiry, then his position was clearly untenable…”.

    Clearly untenable? Clearly? Really? How so? This was someone taking a defensive position having realised that he was in a difficult and potentially job-threatening situation.

    I don’t condone the Principal’s stance – (and i freely acknowledge my own slight antipathy towards the teaching profession in so saying) – but he has every right to adopt it.

    I like to think I live in the real world where – if a person’s livelihood and reputation are put at risk they are at liberty to adopt a defensive posture.

    If the School Principal is guilty of anything then I’m sure the truth will out, but, in the meantime, its this premature sniping from the uninformed “say-what-you-like-with-no-comeback-blogistan” sidelines that I don’t care for.

    (Good morning all, BTW)

    [DPF: I stand by my comments. How can you possibly remain principal if you refuse to co-operate with an inquiry into how the deputy principal was a paedophile?

    You may have the legal right to not co-operate, but if you choose to exercise that right, there may be consequences.

    If I was a school principal and my deputy turned out to be a paedophile, and I had done nothing after an earlier complaint – I’d resign the day he was arrested]

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  5. barry (1,317 comments) says:

    Like many other cases – this is just another one where people in charge are definately morally corrupt, and should be criminally liable. Leadership in this country is pathetic. Just this week weve seen he leadership at Solid Energy and Mainzeal act like idiots – certainly morally corrupt and they should be castigated for their actions.

    This headmaster is like the headmaster in Chch who shows his leadership by crying on TV and setting a pathetic example to the students at the school. There is little doubt that this guy up north was warned by the police about their concerns – but what does he do? – nothing. Maybe the employment laws dont help – but the least he should have done was copy that letter to all parents.

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  6. thedavincimode (6,867 comments) says:

    Chuck Bird

    That’s a very good point. Did he actually know, and what does that mean? Did he deliberately turn a blind and what does that mean? It seems he completely failed to act when he should have done something. Was he in loco parentis and what does that mean? For example, what would have happened to a spouse or partner in the circumstances. I wonder if that explains why he refused to be interviewed.

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  7. Mark (1,489 comments) says:

    Young boys sleeping over at a school teachers house. This did not raise alarm bells???

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  8. peterwn (3,298 comments) says:

    Unfortunately the Christchurch Girls High School case (principal reinstated by Employment Relations Authority) has set a very undesirable precedent. It must have been the first time that a CEO of any sort who had lost the trust and confidence of a Board of any sort (ie Board of Trustees, Governors, Directors, or a club committee) was reinstated, damages would be usual if ‘without cause’. It would never happen in the corporate world – directors will sack a CEO who is not performing, has the wrong attitude, etc even if it means a payout – but reinstatement would not be dreamed of. Again I think that anyone earning over $100,000 a year should not be covered by employment law 9with a safeguard to stop a unilateral pay increase followed by sacking). Should also apply to most CEO’s – a ‘teaching’ principal of a very small school could be covered, but not a principal of a larger school like Pamapuria with 9 teachers.

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  9. Akaroa (577 comments) says:

    Sigh. I hope no-one will mind my coming back on the “sleepover’ aspect of this debate. There seems to be a degree of disapproval about it.

    Well, call me out-of-date or naive, but way back in the 40s and 50s when i was a lad, (swings the lamp!!), life – (despite WW2 and Korea btw) – was simpler, gentler, and, I like to think, more civilized than the bear-pit that life has since become.

    I never was a Boy Scout, but I was at a boarding school that had an active troop. The Scouts would regularly go off and camp overnight with their adult leaders with never a hint of any jiggery-pokery. And, more to the point, no suggestion that such behaviour might be possible.

    Sigh! What a nasty, defensive, accusatory, suspicious society we inhabit in these bold enlightened years of the 21st Century, eh?

    (And don’t write me off as a bleeding heart liberal! Twenty plus years as a military policeman knocked the innocence out of me!)

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  10. barry (1,317 comments) says:

    Oh – come on thedavincimode – the police wrote the prinicipal a letter setting out their concerns……

    Why your defence of child molesting? got something to hide?

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  11. HB (327 comments) says:

    I think Chuck is right. Has anyone in the media asked the police if they are investigating the Principal?

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  12. Harriet (5,085 comments) says:

    “…To be honest I’m surprised he didn’t resign long ago. To refuse to co-operate with the inquiry and to then commence legal proceedings to keep your job suggests a focus on his own welfare continues to win out over the welfare of his charges…”

    “….Parker’s closeness to some families and his mana as kapa haka leader made it hard for people to suspect or accuse him. Others felt their concerns would not be acted on because he was close to principal Stephen Hovell….”

    “….Detective Dean Gorrie of Kaitaia CIB could not lay charges but wrote Mr Hovell a sternly worded letter about Parker’s sleepovers, saying they had to stop immediately…….It was not clear whether the letter was read in full to the school board of trustees, which was given only limited information by Mr Hovell….”

    Just some of the strong paralles here between the Education Dept and the Catholic Church.

    Except of course the venom, mis-information, & the ‘repeatative sexual abuse history of education dept staff’ from the MSM ! :cool:

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  13. kiwigunner (230 comments) says:

    Stephen is a well respected person and principal. I understand he received legal advice not to participate in the inquiry. This is a common approach in employment disputes that often leads to comments as made in this post that ‘he must be implicated somehow’. There is no suggestion of implication here though.

    That he should be sacked for someone else’s offence is interesting. Sure there was a letter of warning but it is unclear if it was a document that allowed for action. Indeed the police themselves thought not which is why the letter was sent and they did not take action themselves at the time. The Deputy Principal was no doubt a ‘skilled’ abuser, trusted by many, and there were obviously many folk who could also have alerted the police better – they too didn’t see what was happening.

    As Hekia and Joyce would say ‘It’s easy with the benefit of hindsight’.

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  14. Northland Wahine (667 comments) says:

    He shouldn’t be sacked for someone else’s criminal actions. He SHOULD be sacked for negligence. He was approached by the police for goodness sake.

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  15. peterwn (3,298 comments) says:

    kiwigunner – he lost the trust and confidence of the Board which is adequate reason for dismissing a CEO which is what a school principal is (since ‘Tommow’s Schools’). The dismissal may be unfair and if so damages may be in order.

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  16. tristanb (1,127 comments) says:

    Did this guy Parker have a prior conviction? Sadly if you’re an obvious creep, who may well be preying on children, you’ll be able to go to the Human Rights Tribunal and claim hurt feelings.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/7538726/School-to-pay-10-000-for-hurt

    With NZ law, as an employer or principal, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

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  17. Monique Watson (1,062 comments) says:

    Oh Fer Fucks sake, Kiwigunner. He’s a dickhead and good riddance. If you’ve got a kiddie fucker running around rampant around your school and you are so fucking hopeless as not to see what is going on in front of your eyes then you’re completely fucking incompetent and don’t deserve to be in charge of your penis while taking a piss.

    What a load of lefty liberal bullshit to say:
    The Deputy Principal was no doubt a ‘skilled’ abuser, trusted by many. It’s part of the job description of being a principal to smell out the crackheads and perverts on your staff.

    It’s best to fall on your sword in a tragic case like this. These kids lost their innocence and will have mental trouble for life and Hovell is busy arse-covering. Dispicable.

    About time for a rewrite of the employment laws. It obviously favours incompetents like Hovell.

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  18. thedavincimode (6,867 comments) says:

    barry

    Try looking under the front seat of your car. It’s possible that’s where your brain wound up after you braked suddenly.

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  19. kiwigunner (230 comments) says:

    Well then, what about all of the other folk who suspected this was happening and did nothing. Including the police, ministry of education staff, parents, whanau? The Chairperson of the school’s BOT made this very point in the local paper some weeks ago – it seems that he has not lost the confidence of the Board as you suggest peterwn . Is it the sole responsibility of the principal? Why should it just be he who is accountable, who falls on his sword? Monigue Watson your language is dismal and your argument too. Most child abusers are well known to the abused are all these people who miss this happening also as you describe? And Northern wahine he was approached by the police with ‘evidence’ that they could not use to do anything – what makes you think he is in a better position than the police.

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  20. tristanb (1,127 comments) says:

    Kiwigunner:

    Well then, what about all of the other folk who suspected this was happening and did nothing. Including the police, ministry of education staff, parents, whanau?

    Sorry to go on about this, but the police would already be in trouble for sharing their concerns if Parker wasn’t convicted. In fact, they probably “breached privacy” by letting the principal know.

    This guy had previously beaten up women, yet the police had to pay $5000 for disclosing this to his partner’s lawyer.

    I have no sympathy for anyone who knowingly defended James Parker, but do have some who felt their hands were tied by the amount of “rights” that our criminals are given.

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  21. kiwigunner (230 comments) says:

    Yep, including the Board of Trustees and the Principal.

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  22. Northland Wahine (667 comments) says:

    Kiwigunner,

    Howells whinging reminds me of a kid that gets caught with his hand in the cookie job, when others got away. Yep, he was approached by the police because at that time, they could not prosecute…

    Hovell whines that he’s being picked on…

    “The evil person, the culpable person in all of this, is and always has been James Parker.

    “The commissioner came into Pamapuria like the sheriff riding into Dodge City to clean it up. It seems that something had to be seen to be done.”

    Did the commissioner do the wrong thing? Do you really think Hovell was unaware? Or was it easier just to bury his head in the sand. I bet if it was one of his own sleeping over at Parkers he would have shown more competency.

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  23. kiwigunner (230 comments) says:

    Yes, I do think he was unaware. And at the very least he had no more power to act than the police or anyone else.

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  24. Monique Watson (1,062 comments) says:

    I rest my case. Rewrite of employment laws and can the Teachers Council.

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  25. Akaroa (577 comments) says:

    Commenting on my post at 0806, DPF added the comment:

    “If I was a school principal and my deputy turned out to be a paedophile, and I had done nothing after an earlier complaint – I’d resign the day he was arrested”

    In reply to which I admiringly say that, If that is so, Sir, then you are a veritable Prince amongst men.

    However, your demonstrably rigourous conscience, demonstrablepersonal integrity and readily evident sense of fair play set you well apart from the common herd.

    I applaud you, but counsel against you perhaps taking up a political career, for instnace, where the fine character traits evident from your response to my post would clearly disqualify you from any chance of success or progress.

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  26. kiwigunner (230 comments) says:

    Everyone’s employment law or just teachers and principals? Happy for your own employment law to be changed to allow for your sacking if someone does something wrong and you don’t know it? So your case is rested that he had no power to act and you still want him sacked? The Teachers Council has not ruled on his competency as far as I know but It would be unlikely that he would not meet the Registered Teachers Criteria because he himself did not harm these children.

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  27. kiwigunner (230 comments) says:

    Compare and contrast with the accountability of Don Elder at Solid Energy. He has chosen not to cooperate or be open to media scrutiny and ends up with a million dollar payout. One rule for all?

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  28. Judith (8,534 comments) says:

    This case smacks of another North Auckland case. Thomas Lee (a teacher) at Mahurangi college who was convicted of sexual offences with more 20 girls at the school over more than a decade of offending. The school’s administration distanced themselves, said they didn’t know what had been going on ……… but at least three sets of concerned parent’s had complained to the school plus several pupils. The whistle blower and her family, who finally bought Lee to the attention of the police had tried to consult with the Principal and staff and had been ignored.

    The Principal in this case kept his job, put his head under a pillow and the very conservative township of Warkworth continued on as if nothing had happened. Lee’s victims to this day feel they were re-victimised by the school and the town’s reaction.

    In that case the Principal should have been sacked as well, but wasn’t. He didn’t even have the guts to apologise, despite the vast majority of the abuse occurring during school hours and on school field trips.

    Whilst this principal might feel he is being made a scapegoat, I have to agree with the comments regarding the offences occurring on whilst he was in charge. It’s accountability – and it comes with the top jobs. It is why we hold our government ministers responsible for what happens in their departments – they take the pay to do the job, if they don’t want/expect to be held accountable when things go wrong – don’t collect the pay for it.

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