WARNING: This post deals with widespread institutional sexual abuse and may be distressing for some readers.
There are so many elements about this, which are shameful.
The shameful way a student was made to detail the sexual abuse that occurred.
The shameful way a principal has finally admitted his ‘incompetency’.
The shameful way an assistant principal was clearly not equipped to deal with the situation.
The shameful way an abuser was allowed back to work with other children following his sacking.
The shame of a school, a diocese, a Church.
In this lies the shame. In these places, in these people.
These people and institutions.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is examining how staff and Catholic Church officials at a Toowoomba primary school in south-east Queensland dealt with allegations of sexual offences against girls between 2007 and 2008.
Allegations that were not initially dealt with properly and led to the abuse of even more children.
In 2010, teacher Gerard Vincent Byrnes pleaded guilty to child sex offences committed against 13 girls and was sentenced to 10 years’ jail.
The Royal Commission is taking a closer look at how the school dealt with the complaints, and sadly the overwhelming factor is that the abuse could have been prevented.
Gerald Vincent Byrnes abused these girls – aged 8 to 10 years old – predominantly in the classroom – and predominantly in front of other children.
It’s hard to fathom but this teacher was actually allowed to continue teaching for over a year after the claims first surfaced.
Monique Scattini, representing the families told the Commission “One of the parents went to the principal, reported allegations that his daughter had made to him,” Monique Scattini representing the families said.
“There was subsequently a meeting with the principal and another teacher … who conducted an interview with the young girl and her father.
“At the end of that meeting neither the principal nor the teacher reported the matter to police.
“The teacher wasn’t suspended, he remained in the class for the last term, and then a whole new school year in 2008 where, sadly, he went on to abuse more of the young girls.
On Wednesday the Commission heard that the Principal Terence Hayes arranged a meeting in 2007 with a girl and her father regarding the abuse.
The girl was brought into the Principal’s office and questioned.
It was meant to be a safe environment.
But imagine, if you can, being that girl. In that office. With your Dad, who you loved, a female ‘protection officer’ and the male Principal.
And then imagine if you can what they asked her to do.