Health & SafetyNews

St Peter’s Cambridge apologises for historical student abuse

Waikato private school St Peter’s, Cambridge, last week released an official acknowledgement and apology over child sex abuse, emotional and physical abuse at the private school.

Historical cases of abuse against former students by former staff was acknowledged, with an apology issued by the St Peter’s School Trust Board to the school’s alumni via email and post.

The statement, which came from School Trust Board Chair John Macaskill-Smith said: “On behalf of the St Peter’s School Trust Board, today I want to acknowledge and apologise for historical cases of sexual, physical and emotional abuse against former students at our school by former staff members or anyone acting in that capacity.

“Child abuse is a detestable betrayal of trust, the consequences of which can have lasting effects throughout an individual’s lifetime. For these historical cases of abuse, our trustees offer a sincere and heartfelt apology.

“Today we have communicated directly to all alumni to say we are sorry to all former students who suffered abuse while in our care, and for the failure of St Peter’s to protect them from such abuse occurring. Current students, staff and parents were also included in this communication.

“While nothing we do as a school can erase history, we want to do what we can to help those still living and suffering from any long-term effects of past abuses.

“St Peter’s is offering access to a confidential Listening Service to any former students who need support. This service will allow people to discuss available help and talk to specially trained clinical psychologists in complete privacy.

St Peter’s Cambridge Board Chair John Macaskill-Smith

“In 2018, St Peter’s made the decision to begin researching all notifications of abuse documented in our files since records began in the 1930s. No matter what came to light, trustees were committed to facing up to the truth and taking steps toward putting things right.

“In 2019, trustees contracted independent clinical and forensic psychologist Dr Suzanne Blackwell to review and scrutinise all documentation related to student abuse contained in our school files.

“This investigation is now complete and has uncovered 19 individual notifications of historical abuse between 1936 and 1981 relating to 8 former staff members.

“While a thorough examination of school file notes indicated some of these historical notifications were handled with the seriousness they deserved, it is clear in some other cases school leaders failed to take a survivor-centric approach and hold perpetrators to account.

“The cases uncovered by Dr Blackwell’s research include cases reported to our school and documented either at the time of occurrence or in years following. We acknowledge there could be other undocumented cases.

“In recent years, St Peter’s has initiated many safeguards to protect current and future students who learn and board with us. These have included physical changes to our facilities to make our learning and living environment as safe as possible. We’ve also invested in ongoing child abuse prevention training for our staff, while implementing a range of child abuse prevention policies, procedures and notification processes.

“All of the school’s child abuse safeguarding and protection measures have been reviewed by Dr Blackwell and we continue to work with her to embed robust policies and procedures into our school.

“Child abuse prevention and safeguarding is also openly discussed with students. We want them to understand that abuse in any form is not tolerated at St Peter’s.

“We want to encourage any alumni who experienced abuse at St Peter’s to access the confidential Listening Service. For many of those former students, the school’s acknowledgement of abuse and apology comes many decades too late. But I want to speak directly to those individuals today: when you come forward be certain that you will be heard, you will be respected, and you will be cared for with compassion.

“Those wishing to access the Listening Service can email [email protected]

For more information on the School Trust Board’s apology and the Listening Service, visit:
https://www.stpeters.school.nz/Alumni/Historical-Abuse-Apology.

School News

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