A scapegoat or accountability?

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

Kathryn Powley in HoS reports:

Stephen Hovell, the principal of the school where confessed paedophile James Parker 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.

Pamapuria School

August 24th, 2012 at 8:45 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A Northland deputy principal who has admitted sexually abusing pupils was flagged as a potential predator in 1999 as a student teacher but signed off as suitable anyway.

Despite a further warning in 2009 – that time by police – he was allowed to continue as a teacher for 11 years until his arrest last month.

Concerns about James Parker were first lodged with the Teachers’ Council when he was a provisional teacher, having newly started in the profession.

Parker pleaded guilty in Kaitaia District Court this week to 49 charges of indecent assault, performing an indecent act and of unlawful sexual connection.

The attacks, on boys aged under 16, occurred over nearly eight years at Pamapuria School.

A decade later police received a complaint from a child via a parent and investigated Parker.

They could not gather enough evidence at the time to prosecute Parker and instead wrote to the school to alert the board of trustees about concerns.

However, the board did not act on the letter, did not advise the Education Review Office and did not advise the Teachers’ Council.

What a sad preventable case.

I understand that Parker was the staff rep on the Board of Trustees, which may have discouraged their discussing the issue, and that most of the current Board were not there at the time of the Police letter. The principal has to take the bulk of the blame for not acting on it, and making sure the new Board members were aware of the issue.