The chief ombudsman is investigating a Bay of Plenty school’s response to a former student’s allegations of sexual abuse by a teacher.
Under the Ombudsmen Act 1975 and the Official Information Act 1982, chief ombudsman Peter Boshier is investigating the appropriateness of the response made by the board of Tauranga Boys’ College to concerns raised by former student Glenn Marshall in November 2021.
The investigation will include the “adequacy of the actions taken by the board to address the acknowledged shortcomings in its review”.
Marshall, now 52 and living in Napier where he works as an insurance broker, alleges his English teacher Pinky Green summoned him to his private office one lunchtime in 1988, tilted the blind to his office, then made him bend over and spanked him with significant force.
Marshall was allegedly later propositioned by Green, who had worked at the school since 1960.
When Marshall reported these incidents to the principal of the college at that time, the school board conducted an investigation and three other pupils were identified who had similar experiences.
After the incidents came to light in 1988 Green left the college, taking early retirement. He died in January this year.
In November 2021, Marshall wrote to Tauranga Boys’ College stating his dissatisfaction with the way his original complaint had been dealt with back in the late 1980s.
He asked the college to review the way the complaint had been handled, and whether it still considered the outcome of the investigation was reasonable.
Marshall also asked that the college issue a public apology to all former pupils “for not providing them with an educational experience that was safe from predatory sexual behaviour by a senior teacher”.
Since Marshall’s complaint in November, and the school’s subsequent review, Marshall says other students have come forward who were at the school from 1960 through to the 1980s.
In one incident, Green allegedly offered to amend a grade if the student was prepared to “pat Pinky’s bottom with his hand”.
Former student Glenn Marshall made a complaint about his teacher Pinky Green in 1988, and again in November 2021 Photo: Supplied/Stuff.
Another student said he was the subject of Green’s “attentions”, while another said he was “bribed, groomed and assaulted” by the teacher.
Following Marshall’s letter, between November 2021 and February 2022, the Tauranga Boys’ College board carried out its review of the investigation of the 1988 complaint.
The board provided Marshall with a report of the review on February 21 this year, which concluded that the actions taken in 1988 were “consistent with practices at that time”.
Marshall raised a number of concerns about the review process and findings, and in March 2022, the board issued a public apology “for historical cases of sexual propositions to former students by a former staff member”.
The board also acknowledged that the review was “insufficient” in that Marshall and other victims were not interviewed, and that Marshall’s experiences and the impact that they had on him were not addressed.
The board apologised to Marshall for this.
Marshall asked the board to undertake a fresh review, but they declined to do so.
Marshall then wrote to the ombudsmen requesting a review of the board’s 2021/22 review of the handling of his 1988 complaint, saying it was “unreasonable”.
Marshall told the ombudsman that his concerns included the fact that the review was undertaken by a lawyer appointed by the school’s insurer and, as such, Marshall believed it could not be regarded as independent.
“There was no attempt to interview me or the other students, and I was not provided with the opportunity to comment on the review report before it was finalised,” he says.
“My greatest concern with the school’s 2022 review is that some documentation provided to me by the school under an official information act request appears not to have been provided to the lawyer that undertook the review.”
Marshall says that these documents included a letter dated 1988 from Green’s lawyers, stating: “The board will take all necessary steps to confirm Mr Green’s resignation on medical grounds to protect his superannuation rights, and if this cannot be completed then his resignation will be accepted and confirmed to the superannuation board for the purposes of early retirement.”
Pinky Green was an English teacher at Tauranga Boys’ College from 1960 to 1988. He died in January 2022. Photo: Supplied/Stuff.
Board minutes dated 1988 show that the school subsequently accepted Green’s proposal.
“This is repugnant, that he got a ‘golden handshake’ and no one apart from the board was aware of the real reasons for his early retirement,” says Marshall.
A student who attended the school during the time Green was teaching told Stuff that it was “common knowledge” among students that Green liked to use the cane “not just for punishment, but for his own sexual kicks”, and that he would pick on certain boys.
Marshall says that he is also concerned that the school “should have appropriate processes in place to investigate and respond to claims of historic abuse, so that potential complainants are not deterred from coming forward”.
The office of the chief ombudsman began its investigation this month and has written to the board chair of the school.
The ombudsman says that his office has sought relevant documents, information and comment from the board.
Board chair for Tauranga Boys’ College, Nikki Iuli, told Stuff that the chief ombudsman has requested all parties maintain confidentiality until the outcome of the investigation is finalised. As such, she said the school was not able to comment on the investigation.
“We have been empathetic to the affected students,” says Iuli, “and clear to the school alumni and wider school community that the behaviour of a past and now deceased teacher was in no way acceptable.
“The school issued a public apology which has also been published in the media.”