Legal experts want changes to be made so that teachers cannot simply be moved from one school to the next when they are accused of crimes. 

Paul O’Halloran, a partner and workplace relations specialist with law firm Colin Biggers & Paisley, is calling for transparency on “insidious” practises such as non-disclosure agreements, which can protect private schools’ reputations. 

He says that if schools really want to take a zero-tolerance approach to predatory teachers, they must be willing to fight unfair dismissal cases in public and employ truly independent investigators and forensic auditors to look at such allegations.

“The schools that work with me are the ones that genuinely want to change their culture and embrace child safeguarding from the top down,” Mr O’Halloran told reporters this week.

“There are predatory characters in schools who cross professional boundaries with children. My aim is to help schools identify their misconduct, investigate their misconduct fairly and impartially, and, if substantiated, remove them from the school and the teaching profession.”

Mr O’Halloran says only a small fraction of children actually report sexual misconduct by an adult to another adult.

The reports are often informal, and tend to be made to a friend and passed on through rumour, gossip and innuendo. Students often do not report teacher sexual misconduct out of fear they will not be believed.

Mr O’Halloran said that he sees allegations emerge against a teacher in one school, only to have that same teacher turn up with very similar allegations in a different school.

He said schools must be willing to stop putting their reputations ahead of child safety.

“Sexual misconduct in school happens probably as frequently as sexual harassment in the workplace. But there is still a big taboo around it,” Mr O’Halloran said.

“The discussion need to be brought into the mainstream – there needs to be more transparency and greater vigilance.”