WARNING: This article contains references to sexual assault.
A Northland primary school teacher has had his teaching license cancelled after telling a family to take matters into their own hands when their daughter was assaulted by a young classmate with special needs.
Philip Owen Gibbs was a teacher at Kaitaia Primary School when the young girl was sexually harassed and assaulted in the playground in 2019.
The next day Gibbs - who attended the same church as the girl's mother - went to her home, while the board of trustees was still dealing with the incident.
Sitting at their dining table, he told them the school's principal was "useless" and the father could "come into the school at interval and take this young boy around the corner and deal to him", the Teaching Council's Disciplinary Tribunal found.
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He also disclosed personal and confidential information about the boy and said he "needs a stick shoved up his behind", the tribunal found.
It also found Gibbs told the girl to not "go to the principal or your teacher or anyone else, come to me and I will deal with it, and this will be our little secret", or words to that effect.
While at their home he also made inappropriate physical contact with the girl by wrapping his arm around her waist and held her close to his inner thigh with his legs open.
The girls' mother reported the incident to police and the school filed a mandatory report with the Teaching Council.
In its July 13 decision, published last week, the tribunal censured Gibbs and cancelled his registration. The names of the family and the children involved and any identifying details are permanently suppressed.
'Complete disregard for professional boundaries'
The Complaints Assessment Committee - which gathers evidence for the tribunal to decide on a final outcome - said Gibbs claimed the principal's emails to the family were a "smoke screen", and that they should go to police and the media so that the principal would do something.
He also called the principal "useless" and said he had too much sympathy for kids with special needs.
The committee said the parents had concerns about how Gibbs touched the girl, and what he said to her. She later told her parents she was "uncomfortable", and she "felt weird".
In initial comments to the committee's investigator, Gibbs did not deny "some of" the comments and said he regretted them, they were stupid, and offered an apology. He was angry, frustrated and felt helpless when he made them.
However, in the later tribunal hearing in May he retracted his apology, saying he was now disgusted at the family. He questioned the mother's decision to complain to police about his own conduct rather than that of the boy. But she disagreed, saying Gibbs' conduct was significantly worse because he was "an adult and a teacher".
On an earlier occasion, Gibbs had also gone to the family's home to talk to another daughter who was the victim of bullying. He drove there in his cycling club van with at least two girls aged under 13 in the vehicle.
During that discussion, the tribunal found he had an "inappropriate conversation" relating to rape and paedophilia, including asking the girls in the van if they thought he was a paedophile.
Gibbs did not accept that using the example of being called a rapist or a paedophile with a young child was crossing boundaries. He said the tribunal might think children were naive and didn't know about such things, but in Kaitaia they did. He insisted it was not he who used the words, but the children.
The committee had previously received a complaint about Gibbs in 2016. It found evidence of blurred professional boundaries but did not take further action.
The tribunal found Gibbs' behaviour met the threshold for serious misconduct and had an adverse effect on all three children.
His comments about the boy risked harm even if they were not intended to be taken seriously, the tribunal found. His comments suggested a "complete disregard for professional boundaries and a complete lack of judgement".
Gibbs' teaching license was due to expire on April 17 this year. At the time of the hearing in July he was not teaching and said he did not plan to return to teaching.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said Gibbs drove to the family's house in the school's cycling club van. The van belonged to Gibbs, the club coach and founder. The article has been updated.
Sexual harm - 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, contact Safe to Talk confidentially, any time 24/7:
• Call 0800 044 334
• Text 4334
• Email firstname.lastname@example.org
• For more info or to web chat visit safetotalk.nz
Alternatively contact your local police station - click here for a list.
If you have been sexually assaulted, remember it's not your fault.