Staff member at prestigious school had sex with boys 'under duress', court hears
A female staff member, who slept with five male students while she was working at a prestigious NSW school, claims she was blackmailed into having sex with them.
The 25-year-old, who worked at The Armidale School in the state’s north, told the NSW District Court the students had threatened to report her to the school if she didn’t continue sleeping with them.
“At the time I was going along with what I thought was going to keep them happy,” the woman said before acting judge Christopher Armitage on Friday. “I was treated like dirt.”
In a series of claims that were challenged, she alleged she had been raped by one of the teenagers in her room on two separate occasions, although no one has been charged over those allegations.
At one stage she texted a friend about the alleged duress she was experiencing from one student: “He says that if I don’t let him into my room, he’ll tell everyone about me.”
The woman, previously a budding teacher, pleaded guilty in April to six counts of sexual intercourse with a person under her care and three counts of aggravated sexual intercourse.
The behaviour occurred over several months during 2014 and 2015 with students between 15 and 17 years old.
The woman was suspended in September 2015 after the activity was mandatorily reported.
“I would like to say I’m remorseful of my actions and I apologise to those who were involved,” the woman said under examination by her barrister, Greg Heathcote.
“The situation got out of hand and I didn’t deal with it in a way that I should’ve.
“I was the adult in the situation. At the time I felt very trapped and isolated."
The woman exchanged thousands of text messages with the teenagers about their liaisons during that time.
Messages between the students were read out in court, including one boy saying to another, “you rooting that fat slut tonight?”
Another message from one male student to the staff member said that he and his friend wanted to put her “on the spit”.
The court heard the woman sent messages to some of the boys, telling them of her concerns that she could lose her job and go to jail.
Judge Armitage heard that in April 2015, in response to one of those messages, one student texted another, "haha slut".
"I'm saying I got raped," that student also texted.
"Yeah, f--- the c---, we'll all say it," replied the other.
But Crown prosecutor Max Pincott put to the woman that she was lying about having sex with the students under duress.
“You have made up this story of bullying, blackmail and extortion by these boys simply to prevent you from being embarrassed in front of your family,” Mr Pincott said.
The woman, who broke down several times during her evidence, denied this.
Mr Pincott read out one text message the woman had sent to a pupil, saying, “that was crazy, I am not like that, I don’t know what overcame me, my sex drive.”
He said the text message suggested it was her idea to have sex with the student, to which the woman replied, “that’s how it could be seen.”
In another text message exchange in February 2015 one of the students wrote, “I promise I wont say anything, all the boys think you’re nice as f---”.
The woman replied, “oh great, thank you, I shouldn’t put this on you, it’s a bit hectic.”
Mr Pincott questioned why the woman sent another message to a boy saying, “I can’t wait to cuddle you tonight.”
“I was just trying to keep the situation at bay, under control,” she replied.
Mr Pincott also raised text exchanges in which the woman had refused sex without consequence.
“Despite what you say about the threats from these boys you were strong enough to resist the threats which were expressed from (a particular student), weren’t you?” he said, to which the woman agreed.
The woman said that at one stage, a student had sex with her in her room without her consent.
“After I moved away from him he had his arm around me and proceeded to kiss me,” she said.
She then said that she had brought the same boy back to her room on another occasion: “It was to discuss what he’d been saying … but yes he came to my room.”
“He, according to your evidence, raped you a second time,” Mr Pincott said, which the woman said was correct.
Mr Pincott said the woman hadn’t gone to the school, teachers or her friends over the alleged assault.
“No but I should’ve,” she replied.
Mr Pincott asked why the woman apologised to that student, among others.
“I should’ve just said no and asked for him to leave,” she said.
The woman admitted to exchanging Facebook messages with another student, who suggested the pair partake in “somersaults”, referring to sex.
“My relationship with (the student) was a very different situation than the other boys,” she said under cross-examination, adding that she and that particular student were very familiar with each other.
“It doesn’t make it right, it doesn’t make it OK,” she said.
“You did have choices all along, didn’t you?” Mr Pincott said.
“Choices I didn’t take,” the woman replied.
Judge Armitage lifted suppression orders prohibiting the name, location and type of the school but kept the order surrounding the identity of the staff member in place.
Parents of the boys involved had written to the court, urging for the school to be named, claiming educators needed to be held accountable for their failure to properly care for the teenagers.
In a letter to the school community on Friday, headmaster Murray Guest said the school had “worked hard to support all parties involved” and conducted rigorous checks on prospective employees.
“I sincerely regret that these measures were not enough to prevent criminal conduct in this instance, and that it was not brought to our attention sooner,” he said.
Judge Armitage said it would be a difficult exercise in sentencing the woman.
“There are emotional factors pulling in both directions,” he said.