Teacher on charges of child assault

BY MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 05:00 30/11/2009

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A teacher at a kura kaupapa has become the second in five months to be charged with hitting pupils at the school.

Tauhe Apihai, 44, was arrested at the Maori immersion school Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Ngati Kahungunu ki Heretaunga in Hastings on Thursday and is to appear in Hastings District Court tomorrow on charges of assaulting a child.

The Dominion Post understands Apihai will face eight charges relating to three children, all aged 10, at the school.

The chairwoman of the school's board of trustees, Huia Huata, said Apihai was suspended from teaching after being arrested.

She would make no further comment.

It is understood that police are interviewing more children in relation to the case.

In June, another teacher at the school, Wi Derek Huata, 51, was charged with 15 counts of assaulting seven children aged five to seven, some of whom were allegedly hit with a chair and a ruler.

Huata is to appear in Hastings District Court for a depositions hearing next month.

He has also been suspended from the school and its board of trustees will decide whether to reinstate him after the court case.

The mother of a girl allegedly assaulted by Apihai said she knew nothing of the allegations until contacted by police about a month ago. "She [my daughter] has been very tight-lipped about it. She never told me anything about it. I was completely unaware of any of it ..."

The woman said Apihai allegedly dragged her daughter from a classroom to an office.

"As soon as I got notification from the police I took my kids out of there. They were very pleased to be out.

"I'm hopping mad about it, and I'm just pleased the police are on to it because, if I'd known earlier, I might have gone down there and done something myself."

Her children were not now attending school, but may be enrolled at a different school next year, she said.

"There are a lot of unhappy parents with kids at that kura."

Education Ministry central north manager Melissa O'Carroll said the ministry had been working with the board since Apihai's arrest.

"The board assures us that all appropriate steps have been taken to ensure the safety of students in the kura and we have also been assured that this teacher will not be on site."

The kura started in 1996 and has been run on its present site since 2004. It is attended by 168 pupils between years one and 13.

Wi Derek Huata is a cousin of Wi Huata, the husband of disgraced former ACT MP Donna Awatere Huata. Huia Huata is Wi Huata's sister.

Apihai could not be contacted.

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- The Dominion Post

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