Thursday, March 5, 2020

The Curious Case Of St. Kevins

One of the most prolific news items recently has been regarding St. Kevin's College, one of the more prestigious (and expensive) private schools in Melbourne.


Principal of St Kevin's 'regrets' writing reference for convicted child sex offender
A top Catholic school accused of a culture of cover-up has received reports of alleged inappropriate behaviour by several current teachers. 
St Kevin's College in Melbourne has gone into damage control after a Four Corners investigation revealed its headmaster and dean of sport provided references for now-convicted child sex offender Peter Kehoe, but did not support the victim, Paris Street, during the court process. 
(from ABC News
Obviously, this is a horrific situation and makes no-one look good. 

From my perspective, there are a number of things to comment on:

1. I actually don't have a problem with Stephen Russell, the headmaster involved, providing a reference for a former associate. This happens all the time for all number of people, nefarious or otherwise, and I personally don't consider it a moral crime. We have a justice system, and character references for nefarious people is part of what we like to call 'natural justice'.

It doesn't change the fact that a person was convicted of a crime. However, it does reveal where Stephen Russell's allegiances lie - in the same way that former Prime Minister Tony Abbott provided a character reference for a priest who was later defrocked.

2. It is possible that a person who is convicted of a crime to actually be good at the job they did before they were convicted.

Yes, Peter Kehoe may have been good at the teaching aspect of what he did. He may have treated his colleagues and superiors with respect. He may have treated 99.99% of the children in his care well and facilitated their education well.

Does that merit a character reference? Only if you're willing to put your name to a statement that a man convicted of breaching his legally-obligated trust and trying to initiate sexual contact with schoolboys shouldn't face severe punishment.

So in my world, no. But maybe highly important Catholic people and I think differently.

3. One of the more worrying aspects is that the school attempted to prevent the issues of improper student-teacher relations being reported to the relevant authorities, and then plays hard-ball once the gloves come off.

This is not about supporting the students - this is about protecting reputations.


Firstly, a person who attempted to reported allegations of teacher misconduct towards a student was (according to Federal Court documents) bullied by her employer, accused of being disloyal to the college, and had her position abolished.

Secondly, the school initially redacted the official record of interaction between the Paris Street (the original student affected which led to the whole saga) and his psychologist.
Paris (the student involved)...later took legal action against the school. 
But when his lawyer, Judy Courtin, attempted to get notes from St Kevin's College recording Paris's meetings with the psychologist, she said she hit a brick wall. 
Dr Courtin said it took her "months and months" to receive the medical records which documented the meetings.

Third comes this gem, again courtesy of the ABC:

Ned (a second student involved) was due in court that day as a witness. 
She said the headmaster then called and asked her whether Ned would be wearing the school's distinctive blue, green and gold-striped blazer to court.


This is not the actions of a school that has the best interest of students at heart, but is interested in protecting reputations.



4. The student felt unsupported.

This is worrying, because if you were paying anywhere up to $20'000 per year and you became aware that one of the teachers was trying to initiate sexual contact with your child, where would YOU want the school to stand? With your child, or with one of their own?

Two telling quotes: 

The College had also left out several pages, including one talking about the St Kevin's leadership. 
It read that Paris: "Feels that they had the power to do a great deal and chose to protect the school ahead of (Paris's) wellbeing."


I agree. The college did indeed have the power. What did they do with that power?

And second:

In a statement to parents, Mr Russell said: "In 2019 I met with Paris, we shook hands and I apologised to him and reminded him again that he continues to be welcome at St Kevin's."

Because when you've had your trust in a teacher breached and abused by a pervert, the one thing you want from the person who supported and enabled your abuser is a handshake...

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Lest I be accused on joining in the Catholic pile-on, but in a way, these people who represent the Catholic Church have bought this on themselves.

The school, through the actions of one man under its authority, abused the trust given to him.

The school then attempted to protect the guilty by using tactics that wouldn't be out of place in a toxic workplace environment.

Then, the governing body that oversees the school, Edmund Rice Education Australia, initially gave the headmaster of the school it's full support!

Is it any wonder why the general public doesn't trust either the Catholic Church, or those charged with trying to protect its reputation?

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My first sincere hope is that the young man affected, Mr. Street, can live a happy and free life.

My other sincere hope is that the religious persuasions of these people didn't inform the choices they made, and that they made stupid choices because they were frail people, rather than because of any implied religious mandate they carried that they believe excuses them of guilt.

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Given these trying times, make sure that you look after both yourself and others. We're all in this together!

- Damien

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