Dilworth School bosses have acknowledged historical procedures for dealing with allegations of sexual abuse were inadequate - but say cases were reported to police and some resulted in convictions.

Trust board chairman Aaron Snodgrass said the school was unable to comment on the specifics of the current seven cases which are now before the courts. It also wasn't appropriate to comment on individual cases relating to old boys.

However, the school did apologise to students for the way allegations were handled in the past.

Snodgrass said Dilworth hired experts to advise the board on the school's abuse prevention and reporting practices in 2018 - although the school has not explained why that advice was sought.

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At the same time it prepared resource papers to help people connected to the school to "understand different types of abuse and the effect of this on children and adults".

"From this review, we acknowledge that the school's historical procedures for dealing with allegations of abuse did not meet the standards of today. They were inadequate and we apologise to our old boys for this."

Snodgrass said that over the years there had been a continual evolution of the school's understanding and processes to deal with allegations of abuse.

"This has come with the assistance of expert advisers and the findings of international inquiries, and significant improvements have been made to the school's policies and procedures to help ensure we're providing the safest possible environment for our students.

"Dilworth has, both in the past and today, reported allegations of sexual abuse to the Police, some resulting in convictions."

Dilworth College Headmaster, Dan Reddiex (left) and Chairman of the Dilworth Trust Board, Aaron Snodgrass address media about the sexual abuse allegations. Photo / Greg Bowker
Dilworth College Headmaster, Dan Reddiex (left) and Chairman of the Dilworth Trust Board, Aaron Snodgrass address media about the sexual abuse allegations. Photo / Greg Bowker

The school hit the headlines this week following revelations charges were being laid against six former teaching staff who allegedly committed a number of serious offences, many sexual, against 17 victims. The charges related to offending between the 1970s and early 2000s.

On Tuesday a seventh man was arrested and charged as police running the investigation revealed they had received more than 50 phone calls and emails about the case in less than 24 hours.

All of the seven men have been granted name suppression but Snodgrass says the school actively sought to waive suppression of its name so it could be open with the community about what was happening.

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"Our aim is to discuss the issue of historical abuse openly with our school community and to encourage any other survivors of abuse to come forward," he said.

"Our decision to waive name suppression has enabled the public and our old boys to reach out to speak with both Dilworth and the police to seek support."

The school is now encouraging anyone with concerns to reach out in the knowledge they will be supported by the trust board.

"If any old boy wants to talk about their experience at school there is a free, confidential listening service should they want to discuss their experiences with an independent clinical psychologist.

"To any old boy who wants to share their experience at Dilworth with the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care or make a complaint with the police ... the Dilworth Trust Board fully supports you."

The arrests have prompted several former students to come and describe a culture where anyone who tried to raise concerns were "drawn over the coals" or "terrified" into not talking by senior staff.

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'Keep away from him'

Old boy Steven Gray, who was not a victim of the abuse, said he was warned to stay away from certain staff when he started in the 1970s as it was common knowledge they were abusing students.

"When I first got there, I was warned to just keep away from him because he was a molester," he told RNZ.

"And it seemed to be like everyone knew it.

"It was just accepted, which I thought was pretty strange."

When he was 14 or 15 Gray said he went to one of the leaders and asked why two teachers were suddenly away from the school.

Gray questioned if they had left because they had had sex with a particular student who was also no longer at the school.

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Following that, he said he and another student were "drawn over the coals" and "terrified" into not talking, by one of the senior staff members.

He said he was then threatened with legal action and expulsion.

Other former students the Herald has spoken to have described similar incidents occurring at the private boarding school.

Some relatives said they had no idea at the time as their children and siblings were too scared to tell them what was happening when they did return home on holidays.

- RNZ

Where to get help

• If it's an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
• If you've ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone call the confidential crisis helpline Safe to Talk on: 0800 044 334 or text 4334. (available 24/7)
Male Survivors Aotearoa offers a range of confidential support at centres across New Zealand - find your closest one here.
Mosaic - Tiaki Tangata: 0800 94 22 94 (available 11am - 8pm)
• Alternatively contact your local police station
• If you have been abused, remember it's not your fault.

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