Student Fisticuffs As Principal Says Safety Not Guaranteed

Townsville Bulletin
November 3, 2016

THE principal of Shalom Christian College told a Royal Commision he did not have the resources to guarantee students’ safety just hours before a wild brawl erupted at the school yesterday.

And a former principal told the commision the school dealt with about 20 sexual assaults a year, with a third of students having sexually transmitted diseases when a 14-year-old girl was allegedly gang-raped by four male sudents.

The Townsville boarding school has been under the spotlight this week at the Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sex abuse.

The commission is examining the school’s response to the alleged gang rape in 2006.

Principal Christopher England said funding was not adequate to keep students safe.

“In terms of what is expected by the community of a school such as ours, the funding is completely inadequate across the board,” he said.

When asked by counsel assisting the commission David Lloyd whether the current resourcing of the school allowed him to provide a safe environment for his students, Mr England answered: “No sir”.

Mr England’s evidence came hours before seven police vehicles were called to the school in Condon amid a wild brawl involving 12 students.

It is believed the fight, which was egged on by more than 40 students, was between boarders from Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

District Duty Officer, Senior Sergeant Joe Matheson, said the school was put in lockdown and some teachers sustained cuts and bruises trying to break up the fight.

Earlier yesterday, Christopher Shirley, who had been principal at the time of the alleged 2006 gang rape, told the Royal Commission the girl was sent to a different campus to prevent the offenders fleeing the school. He said he wanted to prevent the boys from “absconding” if they thought the matter was under investigation.

Mr Shirley denied encouraging CLF’s parents not to press charges.

He also told the commission he made more reports about serious sex-related incidents to authorities in one year at Shalom than in 20 years at other schools. “It would probably be somewhere about five (reports) a term, 20 a year,” he said.

The majority of the students had suffered sexual abuse before they arrived at school and at least 30 per cent presented with sexually transmitted diseases, he said.

Mr England also acknowledged the school faced problems with students engaging in sexual behaviour.

“I don’t think it was the culture of the school,” he said.

“I think the culture of the school was quite at odds with the culture from the communities the students come from.”








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