Community devastated by sexual predator

Last updated 05:00 04/12/2013

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The children abused by a South Waikato teacher will face a "life sentence", according to the principal of the school where he worked.

Rueben James Tapara, a former assistant principal of Te Wharekura o te Kaokaoroa o Patetere, pleaded guilty to 11 charges of sexually abusing boys at the Putaruru school and one charge of selling or supplying cannabis.

He has been remanded in custody to appear for sentencing next year.

Principal of the school, Keith Silveira said the guilty plea does not end the pain for the small community.

"He may have plead guilty but our tamariki are the ones who will endure a life sentence."

Silveira described the actions of the students who came forward as heroic.

"These boys showed courage and mana when they came forward. Our aroha and support goes to our victims and their whanau at this time."

The damage caused by Tapara has left the principal sickened.

"We think it's disgusting. We are absolutely appalled... to be honest, that this can happen."

Tapara was a high performing teacher who had been selected to attend an "Aspiring Principals" course at Waikato University, however with recent developments, Mr Silveira believes high performance was a "smoke screen" for Tapara's deviant behaviour.

"Because they are so manipulative they work on people's trust, you assume they are doing a good job or they smoke screen behind good performance when really they are trying to be manipulative to carry out there predatory actions . . . it's really terrible.

The small Putaruru school have trained councillors in the school as well as outside support for the victims of Tapara's offending.

Tapara previously taught at Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Oparure, now known as Te Wharekura o Maniapoto, prior to taking up a role in 2010 at the Putaruru kura.

A Fairfax investigation found Tapara was suspended from Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Oparure near Te Kuiti in 2004 when a former student laid a complaint against Tapara.

The school sought advice from the New Zealand School Trustees Association and an investigator was brought in. Police were not notified. Tapara was reinstated after the investigation found no evidence to support the complaint.

Silveira said he felt "devastated" and "betrayed" he was not told of the earlier investigation.

Maniapoto principal, Hirere Moana, who was principal in 2004, wrote a glowing reference for Tapara who used it to secure a job in Putaruru.

Silveira wanted answers.

"I would like to know what happened in Te Kuiti, this can help us begin our healing process as well as be used to ensure this does not happen to any other school in New Zealand."

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Silveira said he had received an apology from the Maniapoto acting principal, but said emotions were still too raw.

"Maybe a year from now we can meet with the kura and begin the healing process between both schools"

The board of trustees chairman of Oparure at the time, Shane Te Ruki, now a kaumatua in residence at Te Papa, insisted the allegation was properly investigated.

"We were guided all the way through the investigation by the NZSTA. The findings were zilch. There was absolutely nothing to be found," Te Ruki said.

- Fairfax Media

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