Two primary schools have sent out warnings to parents that a convicted paedophile has moved into their neighbourhood.
Their actions were cautiously endorsed yesterday by a child protection specialist, who said schools should take defensive action against paedophiles but needed to be careful not to whip up witch-hunts.
The notices sent by Invercargill primary schools St Patrick's and Newfield do not name the man but the principals at both schools said he was Mark Russell Stenning, aged in his mid-30s.
Stenning has an extensive history of indecent behaviour, has been convicted 17 times for related offences, and was jailed for 18 months in August 2002 for wilfully performing an indecent act in a public place.
He is listed in the 2004 edition of the New Zealand Paedophile and Sex Offender Register.
Anthea Simcock of Hamilton-based CPS Training - a national charitable trust that advocates for children's rights - said yesterday that while she applauded schools taking action to keep pupils safe, education and skills on safety were just as important.
Hounding a known convicted paedophile was not the right course of action.
"That achieves nothing," she said. "Skills are as useful, if not more useful, than going into some sort of witch-hunt ... or saying, 'Here's the one in our town.
If you all keep away from him you'll be safe'.
"We should instead be teaching our children to be aware of people talking in a certain way, or where to go and get help if they even have a horrible feeling about somebody."
However, Ms Simcock said schools were right to be aware of any known convicted paedophiles.
"I strongly believe that the idea 'you've done your time and so you're not a menace to society' is a rather naive view."
Ms Simcock is the author of a book called Safe, Not Sorry, on how to keep paedophiles from working in schools, sports clubs and youth clubs.
"I support any move to ensure paedophiles are not able to be in a position where they can inflict their abuse," she said.
St Patrick's Primary School principal Alan Watts said yesterday he was alerted to Stenning's presence by a parent.
He was not overly concerned about Stenning, but it was better to be safe than sorry. "We're keeping it low-key and just making sure people are aware of it."
Detective Sergeant Brian Hewett of Invercargill said police did not inform schools about paedophiles moving into their area unless they were seen to be particularly dangerous.
While he could see where concerns about Stenning came from, he said the bulk of sexual offending against children were by people who knew them.