Records seized in Teacher’s Pet case
TEACHERS’ records dating back 40 years have been handed over to police investigating claims staff at northern beaches high schools groomed and hunted students for sex.
The Department of Education has confirmed it was ordered to hand over files from three schools to Strike Force Southwood by Education Minister Rob Stokes.
The files are understood to show details such as disciplinary action and performance records, and include teaching staff at former Cromer High School, where suspected killer and sports teacher Chris Dawson was engaged in a long-running affair with 16-year-old student Joanne Curtis.
Mr Stokes, whose Pittwater electorate borders the schools, gave the department a ministerial directive in July to track down old personnel records to help police investigate the “shocking” claims.
“As a result, the department has been providing on request to NSW Police school records, personnel information and other relevant materials to assist with their continuing investigation,” a department spokesman said.
Strike Force Southwood was set up after former students claimed in The Australian newspaper’s podcast The Teacher’s Pet that a “pack” of teachers were having sex with Cromer High students in the 1980s. The investigation has since expanded to include former teachers from Beacon Hill High and Forest High.
The move comes as the principal at the school, which has long been renamed Northern Beaches Secondary College Cromer Campus, revealed enrolments have soared despite the “negative publicity”.
Principal Justin Hong admitted he would rather not have had his school thrust into the international spotlight.
However, he said his fears of a student exodus were unfounded with the school having to hire 11 new teachers next year to accommodate almost 100 additional students.
Mr Hong, who took on the role of principal four years ago, said the transgressions of the past were less likely to occur today given the strict child protection laws and high community standards.
“Many of the teachers here weren’t even born at that time,” Mr Hong said.
“Initially, my staff had the same anxiety that I did, but enrolments are increasing and it’s almost as if people have just kind of moved on.
“People understand those things were 40 years ago. It’s not relevant to the school in 2018. And it’s not called Cromer High School anymore.”
Police Commissioner Mick Fuller recently revealed that police had information that both male and female students were victims of sexual assault at the time.
Meanwhile, NSW Police are continuing to search for Mr Dawson’s wife Lyn, who went missing from her Bayview home at the time of Mr Dawson’s affair with Ms Curtis in January, 1982.
Two coroners believe she was murdered, but her body has never been found.
Mr Dawson, the only suspect, maintains his innocence and is not a person of interest in any other police inquiries.