A top Auckland school says it would now report complaints of inappropriate behaviour to authorities, after allegations surfaced against a former teacher.
In 1998 the parents of 16-year-old St Cuthbert's College student Sara O'Brien made a complaint of inappropriate conduct against music teacher James Tibbles.
Tibbles was suspended and then resigned, but faced no further repercussions and went on to work at the University of Auckland. In December 2020, Tibbles - then head of the university's music department - resigned following similar allegations.
St Cuthbert's former principal Lynda Reid, who led the school in 1998, told the Herald that she and the board and "completely believed the student" at the time of the complaint.
"I am deeply saddened for her," Reid said.
On Sunday, after the allegations were made public, St Cuthbert's emailed its old girls to say it had publicly apologised to the student for the "appalling way in which she was treated". The letter to past pupils from current principal Justine Mahon and trust board chair Hayley Buckley said they and the school board only learned of the complaint very recently.
"The full, and devastating details of what happened to our former student ... have come to light through her bravery in speaking out now, and we commend her courage in doing so."
"We can only imagine how difficult it has been for [the student] to come forward and tell her story. It is an important step, as we must make sure that our young women know that this behaviour is never okay, and that if they speak out, they will be believed and supported."
"We know that this will be upsetting news for our school community," the letter said, adding that the original investigation was "not good enough" and did not put [the student's] welfare at the centre of decision-making.
"No student or young woman should ever be put in this position and what happened was an appalling abuse of trust.
"Today, I can assure you that we have robust child protection policies in place to support the safety of our students, and if this situation arose now, we would handle allegations of this nature very differently. We would immediately notify the appropriate authorities and ensure the ongoing care and safety of the student concerned.
"Please be assured, the wellbeing of our students is our absolute priority, and we are committed to ensuring that they are able to recognise and call out inappropriate sexual behaviour in any context and would be supported when they did."
The University of Auckland told RNZ a former student had also made serious allegations against Tibbles in November last year, and he had resigned in December at an investigation meeting.
In correspondence from 2018 published by Stuff, Tibbles admitted to the University of Auckland student that the "relationship was fundamentally inappropriate, and damaging".
He said in a statement to Stuff; "I have made mistakes in my past and now know that my mistakes have hurt people. That was never my intention, and I am deeply sorry. I do not believe it is appropriate for me to discuss these matters in detail. To do so would breach confidences in relation to matters that are deeply personal to me and others. Having recognised my mistakes, I have retired from music teaching."
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