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Updated at 10:21 pm on 22 August 2012
The lawyer for a Northland teacher who admits sexually abusing boys in his care says the school he worked at did nothing about a police warning not to trust him alone with pupils.
James Robertson Parker, the deputy principal of Pamapuria Primary School, pleaded guilty in the Kaitaia District Court on Wednesday to 49 charges of indecent assault and unlawful sexual connection involving a dozen boys aged 11 to 13.
Suppression orders on Parker's name and occupation expired on Wednesday and he has been remanded in custody until 15 November for sentencing.
His lawyer, Alex Witten-Hannah, says police had a tentative complaint about Parker's behaviour in 2009 and wrote the school a strongly-worded letter warning that he should not be allowed to have children to stay at his home.
Mr Witten-Hannah says the school did nothing constructive. Parker continued to take pupils home and most of his offending happened after the police warning.
He says the school's response - or lack of it - beggars belief.
The former chair of the school's board of trustees says he knew nothing about police warnings about Parker - but a raft of others did.
Ian Bamber says he only learned of the letter earlier this year and subsequently discovered that many others already knew about it - including the New Zealand School Trustees Association, the Education Review Office, Child, Youth and Family and the school board at the time.
Mr Bamber says the one person who does not seem to have been warned off by police was Parker.
The Ministry of Education has since replaced the Pamapuria Primary School board of trustees with a commissioner.
A community spokesperson says Pamapuria found out some weeks ago that Parker had betrayed its trust when he was arrested following a complaint from the mother of a boy who had been abused.
Ricky Houghton, of Kaitaia's He Korowai Trust, says the shock and distress has been made worse by the fact that Parker was a popular kapa haka tutor who used to take children away on camps and trips.
He says Parker groomed not just the children in his care, but their parents, and then betrayed them.
"He was very highly respected and regarded as a natural helper in the community, and that is somebody that you can turn to for support, encouragement, confidence and trust.
"We've had our own sort of Christchurch earthquake up here. It's the same effect. The ground has shifted and everybody's left in this big empty space wondering what's happened. People are very distressed."
Copyright © 2012, Radio New Zealand
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