School’s ‘gutless’ defence of pedo teacher
WHEN John*, a student at Melbourne's Trinity Grammar School, was molested twice by a teacher, he did the right thing and told his parents.
They reassured him: "My father held me so tight and he said, 'Son, we love you, we believe you and we'll make it right'."
The former pupil, now in his 50s, told Melbourne radio station 3AW on Thursday that his father went to the school and confronted his abuser - a teacher named Christopher Howell - head-on.
"He lifted Chris up by his neck and held him against the wall and had some words with him, which, he basically said, 'If you touch my son or another boy I will kill you with my bare hands'."
John told his story for the first time publicly on Wednesday in an interview with The Age. In it, he revealed how the school - one of Victoria's most prestigious institutions - reacted to the allegations when they were put to staff in the 1970s.
They not only ignored them, he said, but they celebrated his abuser in a letter after Howell took his own life in 2016. The letter referred to him as a "hero" who "always worked in the best interest of the boys" despite the fact that he was facing charges of indecent assault at the time.
The Age reported John was paid $500,000 in a negotiated settlement. 3AW's Neil Mitchell said the school's statement celebrating Howell was "one of the most obscene acts I have seen".
He read an apology the Trinity Grammar School Council sent John recently.
"Trinity acknowledges that the school publicly praised Chris Howell's contribution to the school. It is clear that was a mistake. In light of serious complaints of child sex abuse in the 1970s … Trinity Grammar retracts all tributes we've made about him.
"Howell was a child abuser who sexually assaulted children. We apologise unreservedly. The school abhores child sexual abuse and acknowledges the catastrophic impact Howell's abuse has had."
John said on Thursday that his dad "broke the nose" of his abuser then told him to call police.
He said Trinity fought him "every inch of the way" from the time he first reported the abuse to the time he sued last year.
He said the school was "gutless".
"You covered up paedophilia. You knew. You did nothing. The kids in the school talked about it. The teachers talked about. At the end of the day we all have to do what's right."
Trinity Grammar made headlines earlier this year after deputy headmaster Rohan Brown was forced to resign over a student picture day haircut.
Mr Brown, who cut the student's hair to meet strict guidelines, was told his conduct was "in contravention of school policy and was also inconsistent with community expectations in this day and age".
But tide turned against the school council over pressuring Mr Brown to resign. Former students, teachers and parents of current students lashed out at the decision and pressured the school council to be replaced, lamenting the direction it had taken in recent years.
Mr Brown - who along with former headmaster Michael Davies wrote the original statement praising Howell's achievements in 2016 - was reinstated in his role shortly after the haircut saga began.
* John's name has been changed to protect his identity.