Teacher on sex charges

FLORENCE KERR
Last updated 05:00 12/02/2014
David Ballantyne
Former Taumarunui teacher David Ballantyne is facing sex charges.

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Parents are furious that the board of trustees at a Taumarunui primary school hasn't told fellow parents that a former staff member is facing sex charges.

But in a statement the school board emphasised the alleged offending occurred away from the school and said that it has followed advice from New Zealand School Trustees' Association.

David Ballantyne, a Year 3 teacher at Turaki School from July 2012 to November last year, is on bail in Taumarunui after being charged with four counts of indecent assault.

Ballantyne, 31, entered no plea when he appeared in Taumarunui District Court on January 30.

The charges relate to offending between 2000 and 2013, while he was a church youth group leader.

In court Police Prosecutor Sergeant David Grey said the charges were Hamilton or Morrinsville matters. Ballantyne resigned from the school in November but neither staff nor parents have been told the reasons for the resignation.

In a newsletter to parents dated November 25 principal Rikki Sheterline said: "I am writing this to tell you that Mr Ballantyne is currently on leave and has resigned from his position at Turaki School. I am unable to comment as to the reasons for his resignation, although I can confirm that they are nothing to do with Turaki School, or our students or staff."

After inquiries made by the Times, the board told teachers about Ballantyne's charges last week and were under strict instructions not to talk to the media.

Parents have still not been told.

Although the charges do not allege offending at the school, part of the alleged offending occurred while Mr Ballantyne was still teaching at the school and one mother of a student was furious that she only heard the news from the Times.

"I'm trying to absorb what you are telling me," the mother, who did not want to be named to protect her child, said.

"I know the staff and board members at the school and it absolutely blows my mind that they would think it was ok to keep this from us parents. Where is the support for our children?"

She was now considering pulling her child from the school.

"I'm seriously thinking about it, if they can hide this from us, what else are they hiding? The board are too busy trying to protect their reputations instead of protecting the kids."

The Taumarunui mum said action should have been taken to check on children at the school, as well as to put support systems in place for the staff.

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"Where are the counsellors or support workers for our children? We don't know if what he did also extends to the children at our school.

"I'm just so angry that I had to find out from the media instead of being told last year by the people I trust with my child."

A father of a child who also attends the school was in a state of shock that they hadn't been told.

"I'm pissed off, that people who we have entrusted with our kids would think that this is ethically alright not to say anything to us. It's not right."

Ballantyne told the Times he did not offend against any children at the school, or any other school.

He refused to answer any more questions, saying he was advised by his lawyer not to comment.

Scheterline, the Principal of Turaki School, declined to comment when spoken to by the Times.

The Turaki School board of trustees have refused to answer questions put to them by the Times, instead puting out a statement, part of which reads: "These charges and investigations are for out of town matters and do not relate to Turaki School.

"Once Mr Ballantyne informed the Board of Trustees late last year of the allegations, we immediately followed the advice from New Zealand School Trustees' Association, informed the Ministry of Education and Mr Ballantyne immediately went on leave and later resigned. We have also liaised closely with the New Zealand Police."

"In November the Board of Trustees informed our school community of Mr Ballantyne's resignation.

"We do not believe it is appropriate for us to comment on this matter while it is before the courts and as the charges do not relate to Turaki School."

Ministry of Education head of sector enablement and support Katrina Casey, said the ministry was notified of the situation as it emerged.

Director of the New Zealand teachers council Peter Lind said it had also been notified by police, the school and the teacher himself of the criminal investigation.

Additional reporting Catley Edwards

- Waikato Times

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