Man facing multiple rape charges allowed to return to work at school
The Ministry of Education has been forced to step in twice after a leading North Island school allowed a staff member facing multiple rape charges on site to work.
The principal has defended allowing the accused back, saying the man's work was "appreciated", and he was innocent until proven guilty.
The Ministry has slammed the decision as inappropriate.
The man has name suppression and faces two charges of male rapes female over the age of 16, two of unlawful sexual connection with a female over the age of 16, and two charges of breaching a protection order.
The principal said the man was allowed back to work and the charges he faced were only "alleged".
"He basically came to give us a hand ... and I made staff aware of that, and I had no-one come to me and no complaints. The work's been finished and his support's been appreciated."
The Dominion Post understands he would not have been in direct contact with children.
If he was concerned about safety for staff or students he would not have allowed the man on site, the principal said.
"In the New Zealand system people are innocent until proven guilty. Isn't this how it's meant to work?"
The Ministry first contacted the school on September 11, after Ministry staff received two anonymous complaints.
Head of sector enablement and support Katrina Casey said staff talked to the principal and asked the school to deal with the complaints.
She said the Ministry did not think it was appropriate for a staff member facing serious charges of a sexual nature to be working on school grounds, and the accused should not have been there.
Meanwhile the Ministry was again forced to contact the school on September 30 – after being contacted by The Dominion Post – and "had a further discussion on what action was being taken", Casey said.
A staff member who refused to give their name said they saw the man working at the school up until the last week of term, starting September 14, the same week he reappeared in court to keep interim name suppression.
The board was ultimately responsible forsetting employment policies and school governance, Casey said.
"The board chair has told us that the [staff member] will not have any involvement with the school until the outcome of the court case is known."
The board chair refused to say why the school allowed the man back to work.
On August 26 the principal emailed staff, saying the employee – still employed – would be working on site and staff were asked to "be supportive of this process".
Rape survivor advocate Louise Nicholas said she was dismayed the school had allowed a person facing such serious sexual violence charges back on the grounds.
"It's absolutely inappropriate and I think the school needs to have a good look at why it allowed this to happen," she said.
Nicholas said the most appropriate thing would be to have stood the man down until after the charges were fully investigated and the case went to trial.
"The school should provide a safe environment for its staff and students. As a parent, if I had children going to that school I would pull them out if the [staff member] was still working there."
Wellington Rape Crisis agency manager Eleanor Butterworth said given the nature of the charges it was irrelevant whether the man was in contacts with students.
"I would question what is being done to protect the safety of the women on their staff even if he is not expected to come into contact with young people."
She said 90 per cent of sexual violence is committed by people known to the victims.
"While it might be uncomfortable for school communities to address this, minimising and dismissing the risk until it is proven is also not the answer either."
The man is fighting to keep interim name suppression in the case, with his next appearance on October 29, when a judge will deliver the findings of a reserved decision.
He first appeared in the District Court in December, 2014, and his trial date is set down for May next year.