29 Feb 2012

Parents call for support over sex offender shock

6:08 pm on 29 February 2012

A mother has described the case of a sex offender allowed to teach in Auckland as every parent's worst nightmare.

The Government on Tuesday revealed that a 41-year-old man who had been convicted of a sexual offence against a minor in 2004 has been working as a teacher.

On Wednesday, Education Minister Hekia Parata said four schools have now been told that the man worked there.

The man was arrested on 21 February this year and is in custody charged with fraudulent behaviour and breaching the conditions of an extended supervision order.

Details of the case are suppressed, but families at two Auckland schools where the teacher most recently worked were informed on Monday.

A mother, who cannot be named because of court suppression orders, told Nine to Noon that she and others want qualified advisors or a trauma team at the school so they know how to talk to their children about what's happened.

"I just feel that the prime opportunity, and the prime time, has been missed because now what you've got is children knowing bits and pieces of information, parents that are very concerned and I guess a few are very angry that there hasn't been that support in place."

The Ministry of Education says it has sent out a trauma incident team to support parents and children.

It says all schools where the man has worked have now been informed, and that far as it is aware, these are the only schools affected.

The ministry's deputy secretary of education, Nicholas Pole, says there has been on-going assistance given to two of the schools involved.

Meetings have been arranged this week and parents can also ring the ministry's 0800 number for help.

'Serious breach of system'

Secondary Principals Association president Patrick Walsh says a loophole that allowed the convicted offender to work as a teacher must be closed quickly.

The Government has said that the person was using different identities.

Mr Walsh says he has never known of such a case and if there is a loophole it must be closed.

The system requires police checks for anyone applying for teacher registration, and the courts tell the Teachers Council if a teacher is convicted of a serious crime.

Mr Walsh says the teacher registration system is robust and the breach of it is both unusual and serious.

The Government announced on Tuesday it had launched a ministerial inquiry to identify where there are weaknesses in the system.

Maori schools making checks

An organisation representing many Maori total immersion schools is making checks to ensure the man has not worked in its kura.

It has not been contacted by the Ministry of Education, which has been in touch with the four schools it believes are affected.

Te Runanga Nui o Nga Kura Kaupapa Maori o Aotearoa is doing its own checks to make sure the man did not work at any of its schools.

Chairperson Rawiri Wright says it is concerned that the teacher went undetected for so long.

Mr Rawiri says the incident highlights the need for all schools to be vigilant when carrying out background checks on new staff members.