Patrice Dougan is the Herald's education reporter.

Education officials investigating claims staff sent Northland principal pornography

A principal admitted having 1500 pornographic emails saying they were "joke" emails sent by friends, including principals, Ministry of Education staff and police officers. Photo / File
A principal admitted having 1500 pornographic emails saying they were "joke" emails sent by friends, including principals, Ministry of Education staff and police officers. Photo / File

Top education officials and police chiefs investigated their own staff following accusations some may have sent a Northland principal pornographic emails.

It comes after the respected Northland educator admitted on Monday to having 1500 pornographic emails on his work devices - saying they were "joke" emails sent to him by friends, including other principals, Ministry of Education personnel and police officers.

On Monday, the principal - who has interim name suppression - appeared before the New Zealand Teachers' Disciplinary Tribunal.

He is accused of financial mismanagement of his former school and having pornographic images and videos saved in his emails, which were accessible on four work devices.

READ MORE: Northland principal says pornographic images were 'joke' emails

He told the tribunal: "They came from principals, Ministry [of Education] personnel, police, who are good friends of mine."

Later adding: "Some were from a policeman so I thought, 'they're fine, they're from the cops'."

His police officer friend had indicated the practice was widespread within the police force, the principal said.

However, today the police said it had no information to indicate any police officer had sent inappropriate emails to the principal.

In response to questions from the Herald, Superintendent Anna Jackson, national manager, police professional conduct, said strict protocols were in place around the access of inappropriate material.

"While there is currently no information to support these claims [by the principal], we can assure the community that any such issue would be taken seriously and dealt with appropriately," she said in a statement.

"Police have strict protocols and policies in place regarding access to inappropriate material on police systems, along with a robust code of conduct which clearly defines the high standards of behaviour expected of our staff.

"In keeping with these policies, we hold our staff to the highest levels of accountability, and if there is evidence of any breach, it is investigated thoroughly and acted on appropriately."

Contacting principals

Both the Ministry of Education and the Education Council said the forensic investigation of the principal's computer and emails had prompted further investigations.

Andrew Greig, manager of teacher practice at the Education Council, said it would be contacting the other teachers who had allegedly sent or received inappropriate material to the principal.

"While it's important to allow the New Zealand Teachers' Disciplinary Tribunal to come to its independent conclusion with respect to this principal, we are contacting the teachers referenced in this disciplinary tribunal asking them to please explain," he said.

"If we are not satisfied, we will start a process to investigate."

The Education Council - which is the professional organisation for teachers - expects all schools to have responsible use policies for its devices in place, Greig said.

"Having pornography on any work computer - regardless of the teaching profession is completely unacceptable," he said.

"Any responsible employer - in any profession - should have a responsible use policy for its computers, mobile phones and tablets.

"We would investigate any case where a teacher is accused of holding pornographic material on a school device. It would be serious misconduct if that teacher was found guilty of doing so."

One Ministry of Education employee implicated

Kim Shannon, head of sector enablement and support at the Ministry of Education, said it had looked into an employee after the issue was raised in a report by multinational professional services firm PwC.

"We have become aware of one former Ministry employee who is listed in the PwC investigation as having been sent an email of a questionable nature from this former principal," she said.

"That employee resigned from the Ministry in March 2011, before the PwC investigation was completed in 2015."

Shannon said the use of Ministry devices or email accounts to send or access pornography was a breach of its policies.

"We have filtering and blocks on offensive sites accessed through email or internet," she said.

"Reports are done monthly of what sites employees have accessed, where we look at the acceptable usage.

"We have a code of conduct and an IT policy that outlines acceptable use."

It is understood at least one complaint has been lodged with the Independent Police Conduct Authority over the claims police officers sent pornographic material.

- NZ Herald

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