WARNING: This story details historical sexual abuse and may be upsetting.
A female Dilworth School teacher whose sexual relationships with two students three decades ago was discovered during a police investigation into historical sexual abuse at the school, has been struck off the teacher’s register.
Julia Brown had oral sex with one student during an overseas trip at the end of the student’s (Year 13) seventh form year as it was still known in the 1990s.
She would have been in her early to mid-30s at the time of the relationship.
And in another relationship around the same era she had sex with a Year 12 student at her house the night before his 17th birthday, including playing a sexual game.
In a decision released today, the Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal concluded “without hesitation” that Brown was “not of good character nor fit to be a teacher”.
The decision detailed the relationships, redacting the students’ names and details so as not to identify them or any witnesses.
The first relationship with the older boy began when Brown, who had been teaching at Dilworth since 1995, took the teenager and other recently graduated students on a class trip overseas at the end of the school year.
The trip related to language and cultural classes the students were involved in.
Over the course of the trip the teen grew close to Brown because he was homesick and they sat next to each other on trains and buses.
One evening, “student one” and Brown sat on the roof of a hotel where Brown confided “deeply personal matters” to the student.
On another occasion she stroked his hair.
The relationship escalated when part of the group, including the pair, extended the tour and one night the student gave Brown a back massage in her hotel room.
In another region they drank wine and kissed and walked through the town holding hands. Two other students grew suspicious and witnessed the pair cuddling on a bench.
Finally the pair began a sexual relationship, the decision said, when the student visited Brown in her hotel room early one morning and late at night.
“The two would lie naked on her bed together and performing oral sex on each other.”
Two adults on the tour, suspicious of the teenager’s prolonged absences, peered through the lock on Brown’s bedroom door and saw the two cuddling on a bed.
When the group flew back to New Zealand a few days later Brown and the student held hands for part of the flight.
The relationship quickly fizzled out but the tribunal said it had a “lasting and very significant impact” on the boy who was “racked by shame and anxiety about what had occurred”.
In September 2012, after a number of years, he met with Brown and emailed her the next day, the contents of which were redacted in today’s decision.
In the second case uncovered by police, Brown had the younger boy visit her home under the pretext of fixing her video player and the “relationship” developed over a period of months.
According to student two’s partner and a good friend of his from Dilworth at the time, the teenager visited Brown’s house the night before his 17th birthday and had sex several times before playing a sex game.
Brown later wrote him love letters and gave him a pair of her knickers and in class she sat next to him so they could touch each other sexually underneath the desks.
“Student two decided matters had become out of hand and ended the relationship before Form Seven.”
The tribunal said the relationship had a major impact on him after he left Dilworth.
Although Brown did not take part in the complaints assessment committee investigation, she provided statements denying the sexual affairs.
However, in the case of the first student she admitted developing a closeness on the overseas trip.
She refuted being alone in a wine bar with the teen or kissing him but said they may have gone for a walk and sat on a bench.
She also admitted driving him to a beach once back in New Zealand, “where I told him that he needed to be with people his own age, that he’d meet like-minded people on his course and that while we had got close on the trip, this would no longer be appropriate”.
The tribunal said this demonstrated increasing personal contact and erosion of professional boundaries.
“We do not accept Ms Brown’s denials of the alleged conduct (putting aside that she has chosen not to formally engage).”
The tribunal said it believed the accounts of student one and those of student two’s partner and friend, and the witnesses, because none had anything to gain by making up stories.
It said Brown, now 56, was not fit to teach and cancelled her registration.
“On the facts of this case we consider that no outcome short of cancellation is appropriate for this level of conduct and we so order.”
It ordered her to pay costs of $6307, which was half of the cost of the investigation and tribunal decision.
The tribunal also declined Brown’s application for permanent non-publication of her name, made on the basis she had previously suffered distress and that it would upset her unwell mother and impact her future employment prospects.
However, the tribunal declined stating concerns for the future were part of conduct findings being made and that professionals should think of such issues before committing serious misconduct.
Dilworth School headmaster Dan Reddiex said Brown was immediately suspended and had not attended or taught at the school since March 2021 after a complaint to the Teaching Council about allegations relating to historical abuse was first brought to the school’s attention.
“Subsequently, in May 2022, when the school received a complaint from the former student who had been abused, we immediately commenced an independent investigation.
“Based on the findings by the independent investigator, we believed there were grounds to terminate Ms Brown’s employment at Dilworth, which we did.”
Reddiex praised the courage of the former student who made the complaint.
“While he was legally an adult at the time of the offending, Ms Brown was entrusted with his care as his teacher.”
He said the school was unaware of the second complaint about Brown until the tribunal’s decision was released today.
“The Dilworth Independent Inquiry Report issued in October 2023 referenced the complaints made against Ms Brown.
“In line with confidentiality requirements at the time of its publication, the report did not name her.”
Reddiex said in late 2020 the Teaching Council advised the school of another unrelated complaint about historical abuse resulting in a second teacher being immediately suspended.
Dilworth undertook another independent investigation after the complainant approached the school directly this year, Reddiex said.
That teacher is also no longer employed by the school and the matter is before the tribunal.
At least 30 people have been accused of historic sexual abuse at Dilworth in the years since Operation Beverly was launched, including 14 allegations of “student on student” offending, police have previously revealed to the Herald. More than 150 men have made allegations.
Not all of the allegations have resulted in arrests. For instance, nine suspects died before the investigation began.
But 11 former staff members, ranging from tutors to a priest, have been arrested so far. Three of them have died.
The allegations span five decades, from the 1960s to the early 2000s.
Natalie Akoorie is the Open Justice deputy editor, based in Waikato and covering crime and justice nationally. Natalie first joined the Herald in 2011 and has been a journalist in New Zealand and overseas for 28 years, recently covering health, social issues, local government, and the regions.