Records seized in Teacher’s Pet case

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - LINDA SILMALIS CHIEF RE­PORTER

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.

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