Stephanie is the Rotorua Daily Post's education and lifestyle reporter.

Rugby coach 'on leave' after assault conviction

Rotorua Boys' High School's head of rugby has gone "on leave" while the school considers the implications of his conviction for assaulting three teenagers.

Robert Ngarimu Simpkins was convicted of four counts of assault yesterday after pleading guilty in July. He was ordered to pay emotional harm reparation totalling $1250 to two of the victims.

The charges related to an incident in January last year when he and his father Robert Miroa Simpkins chased the three boys, after one attempted to steal a pair of shoes from the Simpkins' Ngongotaha home. His father was also convicted of assault and ordered to pay $250 reparation.

Up until today, Ngarimu Simpkins has continued to work at the school as head of rugby and the coach of the 1st XV. At his sentencing Judge Maree Mackenzie commented on the "glowing" references provided by senior members of staff.

In a written statement to the Rotorua Daily Post today, principal Chris Grinter and Board of Trustees chairman Herby Ngawhika said the school did not consider Ngarimu Simpkins posed any risk to students.

"The incident in question was not school-related [and] it was not a certainty that Mr Simpkins was going to be convicted. He may well have been discharged without conviction," it said.

"The board will meet as soon as all details and advice are at hand. The principal and board chairman are in the process of gathering that advice at this time.

"Mr Simpkins is as of today [Tuesday] on leave until the school and the board have been able to gain the necessary advice and consider the implications of yesterday's decision by the court."

Parents of the school will be notified when the board comes to a decision.

Education Minister Hekia Parata did not comment, directing the questions asked by the Rotorua Daily Post to the Ministry of Education.

Ministry of Education head of sector enablement and support Kim Shannon said the ministry was concerned about the incident and had been in touch with the school.

"As the legal employer of all staff in a school, boards of trustees are required to apply the law as it relates to employees, particularly when a court has convicted a member of staff.

"Now that the court proceedings are over and the outcome known, the board of trustees is again seeking advice from the New Zealand School Trustees Association and considering their options in relation to this advice.

"The school will have policies and procedures in place for vetting of all staff. These policies will be in line with the requirements of the Vulnerable Children's Act."

Labour Party education spokesman Chris Hipkins said schools had a responsibility to ensure all those working with children were appropriately vetted.

"A decision about whether to stand someone down is ultimately one for the school to make, but I would expect them always to act in the best interests of their students and avoid exposing them to unnecessary risk.

"It's difficult to legislate for every possible scenario, and ultimately schools will always need to make careful judgments depending on the details of any situation."

According to the summary of facts, during the incident Ngarimu Simpkins pinned one boy on the ground and punched him in the head more than once.

He also kicked or punched the boy in the stomach, winding him, and later punched one of the boys in the face, knocking him to the ground.

Two boys were taken to hospital where they were treated for injuries.

The grandmother of one yesterday told the court he was an innocent bystander who had been destroyed by the assault.

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