When I read on the Investigate Magazine website yesterday that there had been several more anonymous allegations against David Benson-Pope, specifically of inappropriate behaviour with female students, my first reaction was that it wasn’t that serious. After all the alleged behaviour, while very creepy, was not illegal.
In fact I’ve been on record as saying it has been how Benson-Pope has lied in response to the allegations that has been the issue, more than if he did one stick a deflated tennis ball in a kid’s mouth.
But today’s Herald on Sunday reveals that three of the four further female complainants have agreed to be named. This makes it far far worse for the person whom Helen Clark appointed as Education Minister last year.
When the accusers are not named it is relatively easy to deflect the issue. However with the girls having signed statements it means that MPs in the House can directly ask whether the statement of xxxxx is true or not.
The Prime Minister is being ridicolous by saying that there is no further issue at all unless complaints are made to the Police. The behaviour complained about is not illegal just very very inappropriate for a teacher (or any adult).
Some of the stuff former students have complained about is not that serious in my opinion. Throwing a blackboard duster happened often at my school. Even the tennis ball incident and making kids stand outside in the cold can be excused or at least seen in context. As a former youth group leader I’ve done the odd thing which isn’t quite in the manual, and have some sympathy for not having a microscope examine every action you did years later.
However the accusations that he punched or hit a student in the face was very serious. These further accusations of entering female changing rooms are also very serious. Every teacher and indeed any adult should know that is quite unacceptable.
I think these latest allegations will mean it will be untenable for Benson-Pope to continue as Welfare Minister. Unless he sues the students for defamation (as he has now threatened) he is now too damaged to continue.