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Article: "Apologies to teachers over Peter Boys affair"

Newcastle Herald
7 July 1998
Transcript:

Apologies to teachers over Peter Boys affair

By Ian Kirkwood

The Department of School Education has apologised to at least four employees over departmental charges laid against them over the Peter Boys affair.

Boys, formerly with Broadmeadow and Cessnock high schools and the Marching Koalas and Broadmeadow Community bands, was sentenced in April to 10 years jail after pleading guilty to sex charges involving five former pupils.

The department has repeatedly described the matter as closed, but parents of last year's Year 12 pupils at Broadmeadow remain angry at the way the affair affected their children's HSC studies.

Details of departmental charges against former colleagues of the disgraced teacher have not been make fully public, and the apologies came to light only after The Herald obtained copies of two apology letters.

In them, the Education Director-General and TAFE training and managing director Dr Ken Boston refers to an investigation into the affair and its aftermath by a senior public servant, Mr Vern Dalton.

Mr Dalton has worked for Labor and Coalition administrations in various roles, including Department of Community Services director-general and chief-of-staff of former education minister Mrs Virginia Chadwick.

In both letters, Dr Boston says that after Mr Dalton's investigation the department realised the subject had tried to 'help overcome and avoid the past improper practices and management failures in the Hunter region'.

'In that process, I have become aware that despite information from you to the Royal Commission and Independently to the Case Management Unit you were subject to a disciplinary charge,' Dr Boston wrote.

To one person, he wrote: 'Mr Dalton is satisfied that your earlier attempts to bring Mr Boys' improper behaviour to official notice was rebuffed on numerous occasions and that your statement to the Case Management Unit designed to assist the department in the Boys case was provided with the best of intentions.

'I regret that your statement was used for disciplinary purposes.'

A representative of the department said yesterday a number of employees were charged under the Teaching Services Act after recommendations from former Supreme Court Judge John Slattery.


Editorial: "Penalised for correct behaviour"

The Newcastle Herald
Tuesday 7 July 1998
Page 8
Editorial

Penalised for correct behaviour

The belated action by the Department of Education and Training in apologising to several teachers over the Peter Boys case hardly sends a reassuring message to anyone connected with the State school system.

Four of the teachers were charged under the Teaching Services Act with failing to report allegations of child sexual abuse made against Mr Boys, a teacher who preyed on female pupils at Hunter high schools between 1974 and 1996.

The charges ignored the fact that the four teachers had gone to the wood Royal Commission at the end of 1996 to report their concerns about Mr Boys after being repeatedly fobbed off by senior teachers and Education Department bureaucrats.

The teachers gave evidence under code names to the commission's hearings into paedophilia in February, 1997.

It was subsequently revealed in a Sydney newspaper report last July, that the teachers were facing charges a result of a separate internal Education Department inquiry into the repeated failures of officials to take action against Mr Boys.

While Mr Boys also was covered by a code name until a suppression order on the use of his name was lifted in March, Senior Education Department officials would have been in no doubt a year ago as to the identity of the T9 teacher referred to in the newspaper report.

This should have alerted them to the need for caution in laying charges against teachers over Mr Boys's activities.

The newspaper report made it clear there was a danger that people who had tried to do the right thing could be penalised.

And that is exactly what seems to have happened.

The Royal Commission's report into paedophilia was handed down last August and Mr Boys was sent to jail for 10 years in April after pleading guilty to some of the charges laid against him. Yet it was only in June, on the evidence of letters obtained by this newspaper, that the Education Department director-general, Dr Ken Boston, apologised to the four teachers over the disciplinary action.

Dr Boston said in one of the letters that he regretted the teacher was 'disciplined without regard to your willingness to report your concerns about Mr Boys's conduct, and that the statement you made in good faith to (the department's) Case Management Unit to assist in revealing the extent of Mr Boys's activities was later used for disciplinary purposes'.

In other words, the four teachers were damned for doing the right thing.

Evidence in the Royal Commission put a poor light on the Case Management Unit's handling of paedophilia issues.

The unfair action taken against the four people, plus another who did not give evidence to the Royal Commission, does little to give confidence that the unit and the department's bureaucracy have got their act together.

Teachers, parents and students need assurance that complaints of sexual abuse of children will be investigated swiftly and fairly for all concerned.

If whistleblowers are wrongly penalised, there will be silence and abuse will flourish.