Child Youth and Family is investigating a sex case that allegedly involves 5-year-olds performing oral sex on each other at a Hamilton primary school.
A source close to the family of the girl involved told the Waikato Times that the young boys "performed oral sex on her and in turn had her perform oral sex on them".
"She [the mother] "has taken her daughter out of school as both mother and daughter are traumatised", she said.
The principal of the school, where the incident is alleged to have occurred, told the Times he could not go into detail about it other than saying it was now in Child, Youth and Family's (CYF) hands.
He also said the school community had not yet been made aware of the incident because an investigation was still in the "early stages".
But that decision has outraged parents of children at the school spoken to yesterday, who said they would want to know if an investigation was taking place.
One mother was in "deep shock".
"It's serious when an investigation is taking place. I just can't comprehend why they wouldn't let us know that an investigation is happening, we don't need to know the gritty details."
One father refused to believe the school didn't tell them.
"Nah, I don't believe [it], the principal would've told us if there was any investigation happening about anything. They wouldn't keep something like this from us."
The incident has also worried one child psychologist who said it raised some "red flags" and could indicate the children may have been sexually abused or exposed to material of a sexual nature.
"Sex play among children is not unusual and not necessarily worrisome. But sometimes when it's a little more explicit it makes you wonder and be concerned about what they might have been exposed to," Waikato University director of clinical psychology training programme Carrie Barber said.
Dr Barber said the backgrounds of the children involved should be explored by trained professionals to check if the children were being exposed to sexually explicit material or abused.
The principal said the parents (of the children involved) had all been spoken to. "But once it goes into the hands of CYFs it's not a school matter," the principal said.
Sexual curiosity among children was common, the principal explained.
"Children are often playing ‘you show me yours and I will show you mine' in any given game and CYFs know that as well; in fact it happens in most families, it's a normal part of growing up. It's when it crosses that line."
When asked if this incident had crossed that line the principal said: "Well we think it did, we don't know because they (CYF) haven't completed their investigation."
The Ministry of Education, which was informed by CYF of the incident, said cases like the one that allegedly occurred at the school weren't common.
Ministry head of sector enablement and support Katrina Casey also said there was no "formal obligation" for the school to inform the ministry, but schools normally did.
"Boards of trustees generally have very good procedures in place to deal with any incidents and our role is to provide them with any support if they need it."
The ministry contacted the school to offer support to the principal and board chair, but the offer was not taken up.
Child Youth and Family would not comment on the investigation.
Waikato Principals' Association president John Coulam, who has been a principal for 28 years, did not think there had been an increase in sex play among children at school.
"I'm not denying from time to time there are incidents that can be described as sexual play in schools, but it's isolated. To be honest I don't think it's a big issue out there in schools."
Mr Coulam said in his past two years as president of the association he had only been contacted by one school in regards to an issue of sex play and CYFs had been called.
Meanwhile, Dr Barber said whether an incident like this would have any lasting repercussions for the children would depend on the reactions of the parents and adults involved with the children.
"You don't want them [the children] to start feeling terrible and ashamed and [that] they've done something really terrible. It depends on how much coercion and secrecy there is around it.
"The trauma of the incident can be lessened by a sensitive response from the parents and/or teachers around the children."
Dr Barber said the sexualisation of children in today's society was increasing particularly due to the internet, television and other media, which in turn was making it difficult to protect children from exposure.
However, she believed there was more awareness and transparency today about the impact of sexual abuse on children, and more recognition that children were abused.
"We expect, though I don't know of any research that really has looked at this, that there might be a relationship between societal sexualisation and rates of sexual abuse. That is really hard to study, because in the past, when sexual topics were much more in the closet, sexual abuse was not reported, so the rates look lower, but that doesn't actually mean that the rates were lower."
- Waikato Times