A Taita College student was forced to seek court protection from a sex education adviser who allegedly groomed him to have a sexual relationship and then harassed him when he tried to break it off.
The woman, who is not a registered teacher but worked in the student’s class, began an inappropriate relationship with the boy, then aged 16, in 2018. She no longer works at the school.
“When I was at that age I really thought it was a real relationship and stuff. It’s just confusing,” said the teenager, who no longer attends the school.
He said people in a similar situation needed to be able to speak to a trusted adult.
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“Because you don’t really know what you’re doing and someone that is older than you can definitely manipulate you easily,” he said.
The boy’s older brother called the woman’s behaviour “predatory” and said the school should have acted faster to stop the relationship. A teacher allegedly raised concerns about the woman’s behaviour towards male students in 2017, the brother said.
“She [the teacher] clearly told me she raised alarms about her, but she was ignored,” he said. Stuff is not naming the brother or the staff member, in order to protect the identity of the student.
Another man told Stuff the woman jumped into bed with him when he was 18 years old and became angry when he rebuffed her sexual advances.
Taita College principal Karen Morgan did not respond to repeated emails and phone calls requesting comment on the case. Board of Trustees chairperson Alan Lyford did not respond to requests for comment either.
The Ministry of Education confirmed it had offered support to Taita College.
Stuff also approached the woman with the allegations, but she did not respond to comment.
The student told Stuff the school “didn’t really know what was going on”.
“I don’t think they really knew what was going on with it, so they’re not really to blame but I think they should have more awareness of… who they are employing.”
But his brother said he wished the school had taken the matter more seriously when concerns were first raised.
“They should’ve… given the student an opportunity to speak,” he said.
After the teenager applied for a protection order against the woman in November last year, the woman admitted in a court document to having had a sexual relationship with the boy, although she claims the timeline of how it happened was different.
The judge found there was not sufficient grounds for a protection order, but the two parties in March this year, signed an undertaking legally prohibiting the woman from having contact with the student, or risk having a protection order imposed against her.
The court documents, which have been seen by Stuff, show the sexual relationship between the teenager and the female staff member developed over about a year, when he was 16 and 17 years old, and continued while she was working as sexual education adviser at the school.
The pair already knew each other prior to the woman working at the school, through community activities.
The pair started talking in June 2018, before she started working at the school, with the student alleging in court documents that the woman would start “inappropriate conversations” and asked him to send sexually explicit photos.
The student said in the documents that he had sexual intercourse on multiple occasions with the woman, both outside of school and during lunchtimes, when the pair would leave school grounds together.
The student stated the woman bought him food and clothes to “keep him hooked” and would pressure him if he tried to refuse her advances.
In an affidavit to the court, the woman admitted to the sexual relationship, although she claimed it was less extensive than the student said.
“We had sexual intercourse on three occasions, and I started feeling really guilty about the situation,” she wrote. “I acknowledge the age gap between [student] and myself is not healthy,” she wrote.
Court documents show the relationship began to break down in May 2019 and over the following months there was back and forth allegations of threats, online bullying, stalking and physical confrontation by both parties.
The student said gossip spread around the school and this was “severely damaging” to his emotional and mental wellbeing.
“I would enter a classroom where you could tell I was the gossip topic,” he said.“I thought that there was no point in telling my teachers or school counsellors given that they would immediately side with the respondent, not me.”
In October 2019, a member of the student’s family posted allegations on social media.
The woman alleged in court documents that her car tyres were slashed while parked in her driveway later that month.
The student’s family laid a complaint with police on October 28 and engaged a legal adviser, who met with the school principal, Morgan, on October 29.
The legal adviser, who didn’t wish to be named due to his role in the community, told Stuff that Morgan said she had been made aware of the situation earlier that day, after receiving an anonymous call. The woman was no longer contracted to the school, Morgan reportedly told the adviser.
Morgan told him that the school wouldn’t be taking any actions in regard to their students, he said.
“She was almost inferring that the school had nothing to do with any of this, they had no involvement,” he told Stuff.
He was told the woman had been instructed to stay off school grounds.
A spokeswoman confirmed the police received a report earlier this year but, after initial inquiries, did not take the matter further. She declined to comment on why further action was not taken.
Ministry of Education deputy secretary sector Katrina Casey said all schools were expected to have child protection and complaints policies and procedures in place.
Casey did not answer specific questions about Taita College, other than to say the ministry had contacted the school to offer support.
Casey said the school did not notify ministry about the incident but that is not “unusual”.