Two teachers have resigned from St Patrick’s College, Silverstream in Upper Hutt after being sexually harassed by students.
A letter sent to parents of the school from rector Gerard Tully on Thursday morning said the two female staff members decided to resign as a result of the “considerable distress” they experienced.
“We acknowledge, with thanks, their dedication and work in our community. We remain committed to developing within all our students the appreciation of, and respect for, the inherent dignity of each person,” Tully said.
“In our particular environment this specifically includes the appropriate and respectful treatment of women and girls.”
READ MORE: * Year 9s at St Patrick’s Silverstream suspended over sexual harassment of staff * Suspension lifted for St Pat’s Silverstream boys who filmed teachers inappropriately
Four year 9 boys were suspended from the school in early March after filming the teachers inappropriately, in a case of sexual harassment the school described as “most distressing” at the time.
A parent with a son at the school said the move was terrible, and the children who harassed the teachers remained at school.
“I am gutted that the school has shown our sons you can get away with sexually harassing their teachers.”
The suspension was lifted days later, and the boys were allowed to return to school.
Sexual abuse survivor and victim advocate Louise Nicholas said it sounded as if the teachers had been put in a position “they felt they had to leave because of what their students had done”.
She described the situation as a “hugely sad set of circumstances” and the teachers’ departure was a massive loss to the school and the community.
If they had stayed, the women would have had to face the students who harassed them almost daily.
“There would be no trust in these children – they would feel extremely uncomfortable.”
She hoped that, if they wanted to keep teaching, the women would find teaching roles elsewhere and the Ministry of Education helped with that.
At the time, Tully said the school’s Board of Trustees discipline sub-committee had decided it was best the boys remained at the school, and “affect positive change” by working with them.
New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA) president Lorraine Kerr said while she did not know the details of the case, board decisions were never taken lightly.
She did not specifically know what had happened, but there was a rigorous process that all boards needed to follow, including reporting back to the Ministry of Education.
“What most boards try to do is the right thing by the students and the rest of the school. But we would hope stand downs, exclusions and expulsions are not used willy-nilly for boards to get rid of kids.”
Schools should instead look at acknowledging why the students were in trouble in the first place, and think about what they could do to help them, remembering they had an obligation to every other student in the school. They also had an obligation to staff.
Kerr had not heard of another similar case.
The school has been approached for comment.