Man with hands tied up with chains behind the bars (illustrative).
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Australian police arrested a teacher from a Jewish day school in Melbourne over alleged child pornography, his employer, the Mount Scopus Memorial College, said on Thursday.
The school has suspended the employee – who began work there in February 2016 – until further notice. Police charged the teacher in relation to material stored on computer equipment that allegedly was in his possession at his previous place of employment, Bialik College.
Victoria Police confirmed that the Box Hill Sexual Offenses and Child Abuse Investigation Team detectives had charged a man following an investigation into child pornography and up-skirting incidents at an Eastern suburbs school.
The 52-year-old Noble Park man has been charged with making/producing child porn and possession of child pornography.
“Naturally, the safety of our students is our highest priority. Mount Scopus is committed to the highest standards of child protection, as reflected in rigorous policies and practices,” the school’s statement read. “As at all times, we have urged any student who may feel they have been a victim of improper conduct, or who has witnessed any suspicious activity, to report this to the Victoria Police.”
The incidents allegedly took place between 2014 and 2017.
Bialik College sent a letter addressed to parents, staff and alumni informing them of the arrest after it uncovered the pornographic material on a portable hard drive.
“Victoria Police has advised there are no contact offenses alleged and no ongoing risk to students,” the letter stated, adding that the students taught by the teacher were in middle and senior schools.
“The college has a robust child protection policy in place and takes its responsibility for the care and welfare of our students and those in the wider community extremely seriously,” it continued. “We have rigorous and regular screening, induction, staff training and monitoring systems in place. Notwithstanding, in this case, the teacher’s alleged actions appear so calculated and covert that their fiduciary responsibility may have been breached. This is extremely disappointing and saddening.”
The letter stated that as a result of the incident, the college has already made some changes to the timing and regularity of auditing staff devices, including continued regular checks of college-purchased external hard drives used by staff.
“All staff will continue to be vigilant in our dedication to child safety and will immediately invoke police involvement when anything warrants it. We encourage, support and expect every member of our community to do likewise,” the school stated.
The suspect has made bail and is due to appear at the Melbourne Magistrate’s Court on August 10.
The Melbourne Jewish community is no stranger to scandals of this kind, having witnessed a long and grueling investigation of the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sex Abuse into two Jewish institutions, one in Melbourne and the other in Sydney.
The commission exposed failed leadership in the ultra-Orthodox communities in appropriately handling reports of abuse.
The Australian Federal Police are currently investigating a complaint by victims of child sexual abuse that Rabbi Chaim Tsvi Groner of the Chabad-run Yeshiva Center in St. Kilda East provided false evidence to the Royal Commission last month during a hearing about the school’s handling of allegations of child sex abuse within its community.
In 2014, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria launched a child protection training program to help the community better understand the risks and establish effective processes, policies and practices to help protect children from the risk of child sexual abuse.
Child abuse victim and activist Manny Waks, who broke the silence about the phenomenon in Melbourne’s ultra-Orthodox community, applauded Bialik College and Mount Scopus Memorial College for “responding effectively and expeditiously to these serious allegations.”
He said it was clear “that we seemed to have learned from the mistakes of the past. Police and other stakeholders were immediately notified, support offered their respective community and more.” He added that the incident highlights that “no segment of the community is immune from the scourge of child sexual abuse.”
Mount Scopus College is Modern Orthodox and Bialik is pluralistic.