Teacher James Parker admits student sexual abuse


The Board of Trustees at a Far North primary school quit when they realised the serious challenges they would face in investigating how their deputy principal sexually abused male students over a prolonged period of time.

A commissioner has been appointed to oversee the running of Pamapuria School, outside Kaitaia, and at least the initial stages of an investigation.

A tearful James Robertson Parker, 36, appeared at Kaitaia District Court this morning and admitted 16 charges of an indecent act on a boy under the age of 12, 24 charges of an indecent act on a boy aged 12 to 16, four charges of sexual connection with a child under 12, and five charges of sexual connection with a child aged 12 to 16.

Parker, who was working at the school at the time of his arrest last month, was remanded in custody for sentencing on November 15.

Name suppression of the well-known teacher was lifted this morning.

Pamapuria School Commissioner Larry Forbes, who was appointed this month, said the revelations that Parker was involved in this abuse came as an "enormous" shock to the school and caught everyone by complete surprise.

"It was just a a sense of disbelief that this could possibly be the case, so it was stunning news for people and they've had to deal with it in their own way since that was disclosed."

Today's guilty pleas and the lifting of name suppression meant it opened up the chance for the school to move on.

It would conduct its own thorough investigation, but Mr Forbes said they were being careful not to compromise the police investigation.

Detective Senior Sergeant Kevin Burke said there was a dedicated 0800 number - 0800 900 502 - so any member of the public with information could assist.

Parker - who was a highly respected and liked member of the community - had not been back to the school since the charges were laid because he was taken into custody following his arrest.

The school's Board of Trustees resigned when they realised what was ahead of them, Mr Forbes said.

He was in charge of starting an investigation to find out how abuse could happen over an extended period of time.

"I'm sure there will be a lot of questions asked within the investigation and a lot more that will come out of it that we will need to answer, the scope will be huge."

It was general believed that the offending did not happen on school grounds, but the investigation "might throw up other information".

The school had already worked quickly to review practises in the school to ensure it was a safe place, Mr Forbes said.

Teachers' Council director Peter Lind said the council was made aware of the case when it went before the courts.

Because he was unlikely to be out of jail in the next few months and will not pose a direct threat to children - the Council would wait for the full police investigation to be completed before they decided whether Parker would keep his registration.

This was a distressing case of somebody in high trust abusing that trust, Mr Lind said.

"... By far the great, great majority of New Zealand teachers act professionally and appropriately, however, any case that involved the sexual abuse of a child or young person is a serious matter and has consequences for those young people that is significant. We need to get those people out of the classroom."

Thirty teachers have been struck off since 2010, nine because of sexual abuse of a child or young person, he said.

The guilty pleas come a day after the release of a ministerial inquiry into the failings that allowed convicted sex offender Henry te Rito Miki to teach in six North Island schools using 53 fake names.

It said the Education Ministry had insufficient evidence to confirm Miki was a risk to children.

The release came as it emerged the Teachers' Council does not know how many sex offenders are working in New Zealand schools.

A 2006 Education Review Office report into decile three Pamapuria School said it was well regarded in the community and enjoyed high levels of support from its Maori community.

It said all staff knew the children well.

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- Northern Advocate

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