NSW high school principal investigated for historical child sexual abuse after messages found on student’s Facebook account

Exclusive: Mother of former year 12 student discovered messages between teacher and her son after he died last year

A New South Wales high school principal has been banned from interacting with students while police investigate a claim of alleged historical child sexual abuse of a student when he was 17 and she was in her late 40s.

Concern was raised when the student’s mother discovered hundreds of messages between the pair dating back about a decade, when he was in year 12 and she was a deputy principal.

The young man died last year and his mother gained access to his social media accounts this year, discovering the communications and reporting them to police, the department of education and the minister, Sarah Mitchell.

The department then took “risk management action” and removed the now principal from “all child-related duties” while the claims were interrogated.

Messages seen by Guardian Australia appear to show that the teacher added the student on Facebook in April of his final year of school.

Initial conversations included her messaging him to say she had marked a quiz he had taken and he had scored the top of the class, congratulating him on the result.

A month later she offered to unlock the school gym whenever he wanted it, saying there is “no way u look like someone who hasn’t been able to work out much”.

School exam tables in an examination hall
In one message the teacher reflected that women of her age “don’t go around falling in luv with 17 yr olds”. Photograph: Lincoln Beddoe/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Within months the communications appeared to show the pair arranging to meet outside school hours, speaking about kissing and discussing that the teacher’s husband “knows about us”.

It is not known whether the pair had a sexual relationship.

In one message the teacher reflected that women of her age “don’t go around falling in luv with 17 yr olds”. In June that year she messaged him to say he was “very fine, very young, very bad”.

During another exchange she sent him an image that she said was “kind of relevant” with the ages of Madonna, Tina Turner, Jennifer Lopez and Mariah Carey alongside the ages of their respective partners with significant age gaps.

“Still single? Relax, your boyfriend is not born yet,” the graphic read.

In the same month, the student asked what he should call her. “I like Miss. The name Miss and you Miss,” he wrote.

She replied with a smiling emoji and said “but don’t you think it makes me sound a bit paedophily [sic]”.

By early July, messages hint at physical encounters.

“That was not my body – that was my brain interfering,” she wrote.

“I can tell you that because every time I have thought about you for the last few months, including now, my body responds ridiculously well. Just not earlier today.”

He replies saying his “hips are a bit sore, knees are a bit sore. Good workout”.

She asked if he had changed his mind about “this old girl” before saying she “didn’t think we were going to do that today”.

She called him a “badass, cuteass” and said she had been “hanging out to get a kiss out of you today and next minute …”

The teacher then insisted she would not tell anyone about what had happened.

Blurred shot of older students walking in school yard
The mother first contacted the department and police about five years ago, after she was told of the alleged inappropriate relationship by a family member. Photograph: Lincoln Beddoe/Getty Images/iStockphoto

“Do you have any idea what they would think?” she asked. “My girlfriends have children older than you.”

In another message, the teacher questioned “…what kind of person must I be to do what I’m doing?”.

She said she would marry him “when I get out of jail for corrupting you”. When he responded saying one “can’t corrupt a badass”, she replied saying that was “not a defence I’d be able to use though”.

During another conversation she relayed a dream where he picked her up and “took me out into the countryside somewhere. we just spend the whole day together, hanging out”, which she said sounded “perfect”.

He replied that he also had dreams about her in which she was naked. She replied that she has those dreams as well.

In mid-July, the teacher messaged the student to say her “husband knows about us and wants it to stop” and asked to pick him up so they could talk.

The next day she contacted him again saying she had to “unfriend you for the moment. I love you.”

Upon discovering the messages, the boy’s mother reported her concerns to police and the NSW department of education.

The now principal of another high school in NSW was quickly stood down from on-campus duties and police began an investigation.

The mother first contacted the department and police about five years ago, while the young man was still alive, after she was told of the alleged inappropriate relationship by another family member. She messaged her son about it but he did not respond.

In documents obtained by Guardian Australia, police this year explained to the family that an anonymous report was also lodged the year after the teenager finished school and he had been spoken to at that time. He signed a statement denying anything untoward had happened.

A high school table covered in school backpacks and bags.
A spokesperson for the education department confirmed they were “aware of this matter”. Photograph: Lbeddoe/Alamy

The mother was told by police that when she then came forward and wanted them to investigate a few years later, officers reviewed the claims but “given the previous signed statement … it was not looked at any further”.

She told Guardian Australia she missed her “very mischievous, very outgoing, very smart” son.

She wanted other parents and former students to be aware of the investigation and did not think the principal should be allowed contact with students again.

A spokesperson for the education department confirmed they were “aware of this matter”.

“The employee concerned is not currently working with students,” the spokesperson said. “For privacy and confidentiality reasons, we are unable to provide further comment.”

A letter to the mother last month from the education minister, Sarah Mitchell, stated the department’s professional and ethical standards (PES) investigation was still open and “on hold pending advice from police about criminal charges”.

“I am assured PES is in regular contact with police and is actively cooperating with, and assisting the officers involved in the matter,” Mitchell wrote.

“I understand the department has taken risk management action in the matter, in that the principal has been removed from all child-related duties.

“Please be assured the safety, welfare and wellbeing of children is the department’s paramount concern and appropriate action will be taken as soon as possible once the issue of criminal charges is resolved.”

A NSW police spokesperson told Guardian Australia that police had “received a report of alleged historic child sexual abuse. Inquiries are being conducted by [district police], in partnership with the State Crime Command’s Child Abuse Squad.”

The principal has been contacted for comment.

• In Australia, children, young adults, parents and teachers can contact the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or Bravehearts on 1800 272 831, and adult survivors can contact Blue Knot Foundation on 1300 657 380. In the UK, the NSPCC offers support to children on 0800 1111, and adults concerned about a child on 0808 800 5000. The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac) offers support for adult survivors on 0808 801 0331. In the US, call or text the Childhelp abuse hotline on 800-422-4453. Other sources of help can be found at Child Helplines International


Tamsin Rose

The GuardianTramp

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