The teacher behind a 'disturbing' sexual education handout given to students as young as 11 has kept her job.
Twenty-two parents have laid a joint formal complaint with Tauraroa Area School (TAS) about a handout given to pupils aged 11 to 13 that detailed five different legal classifications of sex – genital, digital, object, oral, and anal.
The two-page document also included details about different sexual acts, such as using hands and feet to "sexually pleasure someone", and sex toys.
New information revealed the document had been viewed by the school's head of department for health and a second health teacher before being distributed.
One mother previously spoken to by the Advocate said the damage was irreversible.
The teacher responsible - described by the school's principal Grant Burns as a "long-standing classroom practitioner" experienced in the subject - declined the Advocate's request for an interview.
Despite the outrage of some parents, Burns said there were no grounds for her dismissal.
"The NZSTA [New Zealand School Trustees Association] advised that there was no case for any kind of negative employment consequences for any staff involved."
The Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand, which oversees conduct in the education sector, said they had no complaints regarding teacher conduct or competence at TAS.
By law, any complaints regarding inappropriate conduct or competence by a teacher should first be referred to the teacher's employer.
If the employer has reason to believe a teacher has engaged in serious misconduct, the conduct must be reported to the Teaching Council.
But people may also refer their complaints to the council if they are unsatisfied with how the issue has been handled by the teacher's employer.
While the Ministry of Education had fielded a "couple" of phone calls and an email about the incident, it had not received any formal complaints.
The ministry referred the concerns back to the school to manage through its complaints process.
Ministry complaints only became formal if someone, unhappy with the school's complaints process or the outcome, re-engages the ministry for additional advice and support.
Burns previously told the Advocate the teacher had recently completed a Family Planning course on teaching sexuality which had encouraged teachers to be open when answering student questions, however explicit.
The teacher, he said, believed she was acting in accordance with the advice given on the course by creating the handout - which was not provided by Family Planning.
Some parents felt the handout had even gone so far as to break the law by intentionally exposing a person under the age of 16 to indecent material.
However, University of Auckland law academic Professor Mark Henaghan said the argument wouldn't stand up in court because it boiled down to the teacher's intent.
"The intent was to respond to students' questions and to try and educate them in the best way they could," he said.
"They may have crossed the line and upset some parents but they weren't trying to be salacious and that's what is really required for indecency."
Burns said since the incident, which sparked abuse targeted at the principal from as far afield as Australia, teachers no longer responded to all questions asked.
In addition, he and the department head view responses before they are distributed.
But one mother, who is part of the joint complaint, wants the question box stopped altogether.
While her 12-year-old daughter was out of class when the handout was provided, she had still being impacted by what her classmates had experienced.
"My daughter has completely shut down around it all. That says a lot as she is usually quite open," she said.
It was a concerning outcome, as the mother now had no way of knowing what was being talked about in class.
"She has made it very clear she doesn't want to be in the class anymore," she said of her daughter.
The mother told the Advocate parents had taken their complaint to the school's Board of Trustees over the weekend.
"We feel he [Burns] has just brushed this under the carpet."
Burns stood by his original position of apologising for some information having been distributed despite being inappropriate for the age group.
But he said the issue was more complex than the "knee-jerk reaction" some commentators recognised.
Schools have a duty to provide students with factual sexuality information in the wider context of a health curriculum, he said.
Especially as "much more dangerous and inaccurate information" was available on the web.
"[...] I have also received many very positive responses, including from parents of children in the class, who acknowledge the importance of keeping our young people well informed."
In a response letter to the complaint laid with the school, Burns said parents would be invited to participate in consultations on the health curriculum before this topic was taught next year.