More than 24 hours after one of its teachers was jailed for sexually abusing two boys she was supposed to educate and protect - a Marlborough school has broken its silence.
And it has revealed concerns were raised two times about the teacher's conduct months before she was arrested but she offered "plausible reasons" for her behaviour, and was able to keep offending.
An independent review has found the staff "did not action concerns quickly enough" and if they had - she could have been stopped sooner.
Yesterday the woman in her 30s was jailed for two years and six months after admitting sexually abusing two teenage students at the school where she had been working for more than a decade.
She conceded she had also had sexual "relationships" with other older students - but the prosecution only pertained to the two boys who were 14 and 15 when she groomed and abused them.
The sexual abuse happened mostly in parked cars during school lunch breaks.
The teacher has interim name suppression.
Sentencing Judge Tony Zohrab refused permanent name suppression yesterday but the woman's lawyer Jonathan Eaton QC indicated he would appeal that to the High Court.
That means the woman's name is automatically suppressed for 20 working days to allow for that appeal to be physically filed.
The Herald sought comment from the school involved - which cannot be named yet.
The chairman of the Board of Trustees promised a statement after sentencing but that did not eventuate yesterday.
The statement - in the form of a newsletter sent to parents - was provided to the Herald after 5.20pm today.
The school's principal has recently left his role and did not respond to requests for comment.
The chairman's said his departure was "unrelated to this matter" and "no inference should be drawn to link the two".
"The Board has asked that you please be very cautious around your reporting of this matter as everyone's priority should be the wellbeing and privacy of those directly affected," said the chairman.
"We can confirm that no other complaints or concerns have been made regarding misconduct by other staff members.
"If further information was known about anything relating to this matter, we would take this very seriously and would hope that anyone with information raised this formally with the Board, our investigator or with the police."
The offending teacher resigned from her role after she was charged.
Her teaching registration has been cancelled.
"We will make no comment on the sentence as we respect the process and the judgment of the courts," said the Board chair in the four-page letter, dated today.
"Firstly, I would like to acknowledge the impact of this former teacher's actions.
"Everyone associated with (the school) is appalled and devastated by the offending and the impact that this has had on students and their families.
"Her breaches of trust towards all those around her is reprehensible."
The chairman said while the Board was comforted that the victims and other students did not need to appear in court, they were "disappointed that she knowingly acted outside the law, and all professional and ethical codes".
"And then that she chose not to admit guilt as soon as her actions were uncovered," he said.
"The person solely responsible for these appalling acts has been brought to justice.
"However, we believe that the community requires and deserves full disclosure of the school's actions relating to this matter."
The chairman said the Board had looked to update the community earlier.
However the school's legal advice was that "adding information and speculation already in the public arena could inadvertently have brought about a prospect of a mistrial".
"After her guilty plea, comments added by the school may have adversely affected the options available on sentence."
Explaining the process the school took, the chairman's said the matter first came to the principal and Board's attention on May 8, 2019.
"As the matter was serious and needed to be worked through carefully, we immediately sought advice from the Ministry of Education and New Zealand School Trustees Association," he outlined.
"We also contacted other key agencies including Teaching Council, Oranga Tamariki and police.
"The teacher was immediately placed on leave and later resigned."
He said the school's "first - and ongoing priority" was any students affected by this matter.
"The initial police, OT and school investigations sought to identify those potentially directly impacted by the allegations," the chairman said.
"Within a couple of days of the allegations being made, alongside police and OT, the
school met with a small group of potentially affected students and their parents to inform them of the allegations and the next steps.
"Immediate, extensive and ongoing pastoral care support was put in place for all students at the college, funded by the Ministry of Education."
He said the school and Board were "committed to ensuring the ongoing needs of those affected are met.
Pastoral support would extend past the duration of any student's enrolment at the school.
The chairman revealed that within 10 days of becoming aware of the matter, the Board had engaged a lawyer to "undertake an external and independent investigation".
The aim of that was so the Board could "understand what was known (if anything) by the school" about this matter prior to the May 2019 allegations being made.
"We were also keen to understand what should be learned from these events," the chairman explained.
As part of their investigation (the lawyers) reviewed historic and current documentation, as well as undertaking interviews with staff.
Forensic IT analysis was also undertaken.
"Where needed, further interviews and discussions were conducted to ensure the ongoing rigour of the findings and to follow up on new or divergent viewpoints," the chairman said.
He revealed that in November 2018 there had been some "collegial concerns raised that the teacher had a closeness with students".
"But when staff discussed this with her, she had provided plausible reasons - for example counselling or tutoring of a student,"he said.
"The teacher said that she would alter her behaviour accordingly and detailed some changes to maintain professional boundaries.
"In mid-February 2019 a staff member had a more serious concern regarding the teacher's conduct and raised it with a senior staff member.
"At that time no further action was taken for a number of reasons.
"The senior staff member told about the concern did not fully understand the nature of it.
"A technological issue compounded this as changes in the school's IT system meant a notification of a written statement was not received."
The chairman said the Board and principal had no prior knowledge that the staff member was "acting to the detriment of students or that there was any inappropriate conduct with students".
He said as soon as management heard of these allegations on May 8, 2019, they acted immediately.
"The Board agrees with the interim findings that suggest staff members did not action concerns quickly enough," he conceded.
The review found that going forward the school must have better procedures in place whenever concerns are raised about staff having "inappropriate or unprofessional behaviour".
The reporting of that "must be ... clear and unequivocal".
"There must never again be a situation where the seriousness of the message is not understood," said the chairman.
There must be a new culture developed within the (school) whereby staff feel comfortable
discussing concerns with the principal directly.
"There was a need for a new policy encompassing the overriding concept that 'with
knowledge comes responsibility'.
"This means that if a staff member has witnessed or heard of conduct which raises a suspicion, then that knowledge requires they take responsibility for a notification.
"It must never be acceptable for a staff member to assume that another will deal with the issue."
Further, in future any notification about such incidents or concerns "must be in writing. It must be shared by email or in hard copy".
"The responsibility remains with the staff member disclosing the concern and is not lifted until the notification is acknowledged, indicating that the matter will be dealt with by others," said the chairman.
"We accept all the findings of the interim review and have already made changes.
"We take very seriously what we now know with the benefit of hindsight.
"While we cannot change the result, it is our intention to put in place protections which will ensure that events of this type do not happen again at our (school).
"While the school's policies are more robust now, had the existing policies been followed, and other compounding factors not arisen, the offending may have come to light earlier."
The chairman confirmed the staff code of conduct had also been updated and "will be formally acknowledged annually by every member of staff so there is a heightened and ongoing awareness across all staff around professional conduct and boundaries".
"We have also had a significant number of internal meetings and robust discussions around all aspects of this situation, including around expectations and implementing the new policy, processes and code," he said.
"We are very confident that should the serious concerns arise in future, staff would be very clear on the actions to be taken.
"Our parents and community can be assured that lessons have been learnt by everyone
working for and in the school – the Board of Trustees, senior leadership team, teaching staff and support staff – and there will continue to be actions so that we are not faced with a similar situation ever again."
The chairman called on anyone else with concerns of information about the offending to go directly to the police.
"If anyone has any information that could add to our understanding of how this offending was able to occur and continue, then we ask that this is shared through the appropriate channels, either by contacting (the school lawyer) or the Board, rather than through informal channels or speculation," he said.
"While the court's process has concluded with sentencing, you can be very sure that the college's actions and learning does not end here.
"This has not been an easy seven months for anyone associated with the college.
"I would like to acknowledge how difficult it has been for the affected boys, fellow students and whanau at the centre of these appalling circumstances.
"We trust our actions confirm that there is no greater priority for our school than the ongoing safety and wellbeing of our students."
The chairman said it had been "a challenging and emotional few months for
"Particularly as we dwell on the criminal offending and its impact on our boys, our staff and our community," he said.
"Finally, I would like to thank the community for your continued support of the boys at our school and to ask for everyone to safeguard the privacy and wellbeing of those affected."