Editorial: School no place for sex offenders

By Dylan Thorne

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One of the most concerning things to emerge from the ministerial inquiry into the case of Te Rito Henry Miki is that a New Zealand school has seen fit to employ a teacher with previous sex crime convictions.

Miki, 41, evaded authorities for five years after his release from jail for an indecent assault on a 14-year-old boy. While under an extended supervision order, Miki used a fake CV and birth certificate to gain employment during the five years to January 2012 in six North Island schools. Miki, was arrested after teaching at a school in Tauranga, in 2009, only to go on to teach at another school. Miki is now in jail for four years after pleading guilty to seven charges of fraud, and for charges of breaching a supervision order.

The Government response, announced yesterday by Education Minister Hekia Parata, includes measures for better information sharing and tougher employment checks.

For me, one of the most alarming aspects of the 130-page report is a paragraph relating to another teacher with sex crime convictions teaching at a private school in Auckland.

Unlike the Miki case, in which he used fake documents to mask his past convictions, the principal, board of trustees and education authorities of this private school know about the man's past.

As unbelievable as it sounds, there is no law preventing convicted sex offenders from working at schools, but the Teacher's Council can place strict conditions on teachers with such convictions.

The teacher, who has name suppression, pleaded guilty in the North Shore District Court in 2009 to eight charges of indecent assault on a 15-year-old girl. The offending occurred in 1991.

He is teaching girls of the same age but a court order prevents the school being identified.

The Teachers Council has put conditions on the man's employment but has refused to say what they are.

Those who led the inquiry found insufficient evidence to confirm the teacher was a risk to children but did recommend a review of legislation and policies on the amount of discretion available to schools.

In my view, given the level of trust placed in teachers, people with convictions for sex crimes should not be able to teach and it is hard to fathom how a school could consider it a good idea to employ someone who does.

Corrections Minister Anne Tolley says a complicated law change would be needed to make criminal background checks compulsory for all staff teaching in schools. Complicated or not, such a law change should be pushed through and those with convictions for sexual offending should be banned from teaching.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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