24 Aug 2012

Teacher's behaviour dates back 16 years - principal

1:44 pm on 24 August 2012

A former principal of the teacher who has admitted sexually abusing his pupils has told Radio New Zealand police were informed about his inappropriate behaviour 16 years ago but no investigation was carried out.

Northland teacher James Robertson Parker 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.

Radio New Zealand has been told by Parker's former principal that, as a first-year teacher in his early 20s, he had pupils stay at his house for sleepovers.

The principal, who prefers not to be named, says he targetted a poorer school where parents were stressed and needed a break from the children and were happy to allow them to stay at his house.

She says Parker, a Pakeha, abused Maori cultural traditions like marae-style shared sleeping arrangements to rationalise sharing his own bed or tent with pupils on a school trip.

A former flatmate of Parker told the school that the teacher would sleep in the same room as children who stayed at the house, but the principal says it was never followed up properly by police, other than to speak to him in the car park and "give him a bit of a shove-around."

Teacher may face more charges

Police say the investigation into Parker is continuing and he may face more charges.

The 37-year-old was deputy principal at Pamapuria School in Kaitaia for six years until his arrest last month.

He was the subject of an investigation by the Ministry of Education, Child Youth and Family and police in 2009, but no charges were laid.

Detective Senior Sergeant Kevin Burke told Morning Report police were bound by guidelines and unable to proceed with their investigation at that time.

He says there have since been further disclosures, and the matter is not closed.

"The investigation is ongoing. We'd still want to hear from any person who may be able to assist the investigation - and any potential victims out there, we'd urge them to contact us."

CYF 'could not substantiate' allegations

CYF spokesperson Marama Edwards says the children involved were interviewed during the investigation three years ago but the allegations could not be substantiated.

She says no further allegations were made until the most recent ones that led to Parker's arrest.

Ms Edwards says the actions of this once-respected community member have shocked everyone.

The Education Review Office says Pamapuria School failed to provide information about sexual misconduct by a teacher during its last review in 2009.

ERO chief review officer Graham Stoop told Morning Report that the office would expect a school to bring a matter such as this to its attention, but there is no evidence that Pamapuria School's board of trustees did so.

However the most recent chair of the school's board, Ian Bamber, says he knew nothing of the matter until after Parker's arrest.

Parker has been remanded in custody for sentencing on 15 November .