Private school teen shunned by government after sexual assault

 

THE Department of Education allegedly told a Gold Coast girl sexually assaulted by a teacher they could not help because she was at a private school.

State parliament was told the teenager had been "silenced for six years" by ex-teachers, the school council and state government, despite the teacher allegedly admitting to inappropriately touching the then 13-year-old and "leveraging well-deserved grades for sexual payments".

Laura Gerber. (News Corp/Attila Csaszar)
Laura Gerber. (News Corp/Attila Csaszar)

"I am going to ask you and all the members in this chamber to place yourselves into the shoes of this sexual assault survivor," Currumbin MP Laura Gerber told parliament on Thursday. "You're a 13-year-old girl, an attentive student, a high achiever with aspirations to be an astronomer."

Ms Gerber said the girl was in awe of her young, award-winning teacher when walking into class for the first time.

"Within weeks you find yourself growing uncomfortable at the attention and sexual comments he is paying you, attention and comments that eventuate into inappropriate touching.

 

 

"This man proceeded to leverage well-deserved grades for sexual payments. This survivor knew it was wrong and inappropriate for anyone, let alone her teacher, to be pressuring her in such a way and she told him that.

"Later that night the survivor told her family what happened and that was then told to the school. What is absolutely astounding is in a meeting between the survivor, the school and the perpetrator, he admitted to his actions and still there were no consequences for him."

The girl, now 20 - in a statement via Mr Gerber's office - said her own school had pressured her against formally ­reporting the matter.

"At the time of the assault, I reported the incident to my school who then put the pressure on me, telling me that his future was in my hands, that ­reporting him would ruin his career. I wanted to go ahead anyway," she allegedly told Ms Gerber.

"After six years of to-ing and fro-ing with my school, I decided enough was enough and in 2020, reported his actions, and my school's inactions to the Queensland State Department of Education. Unfortunately, the Department is under no mandatory reporting requirement to alert the Queensland College of Teachers - the teacher's disciplinary body - about misconduct in private schools.

"This is not good enough, it's just wrong for an assault to be perpetrated by a teacher and reported to a government body, intended to protect minors in their education, and for nothing to be done about it.

"The question has been posed as to why I have not spoken with police. The answer is simple: the criminal justice process is more tedious and damaging than it is helpful - to relive this experience, in a judicial sense, seven years on, is not something I want to do.

"Quite frankly, this should have been dealt with appropriately at the time rather than swept under the rug."

Ms Gerber added: "After six years of to-ing and fro-ing with the school to report the inappropriate conduct, this sexual assault survivor took matters into her own hands and called the Department of Education to report him herself only to be told that it was not their problem because she attended a private school."

Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled
Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled

Ms Gerber said the ex-­student was still holding hope for justice, and felt guilt because she feared he "may assault another". The student had not contacted teacher registration body Queensland College of Teachers because she "didn't know it was an ­option", Ms Gerber said.

The Department of Education was not obligated to tell the college about complaints they received, Ms Gerber added. "This case is six years old. (The victim) didn't want to be named and she specifically asked me not to go to the police.

"She has had counselling, this is more a matter of closure, this is about having her voice heard. It's really important we respect the wishes of survivors in cases like this."

Parliament was told the teacher was no longer working on the Gold Coast.

"Given the climate and the community pressure to see an end to sexual violence, the state Labor government must seize this opportunity to pursue workable solutions for women across Queensland," she said.

"I will be seeking a meeting with the Education Minister to discuss the specifics of this case and to work through a solution so we can help this young woman."

Education Minister Grace Grace told the Bulletin: "I urge the young woman, and any victim, to make a report to police and seek support or advice by calling DVConnect's sexual assault helpline.

"I am happy to meet the Member. In relation to the specifics of the case, as I have no jurisdiction over non-­government schools this is a matter for the relevant governing body in the non-state school sector."

Originally published as Private school teen shunned by government after sexual assault

 


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