Teachers who attended court to support a colleague, Darren Goddard, accused of being a serial paedophile, have been suspended pending an investigation by the education department, the Maritzburg Sun has reported.
Parents were on Friday issued with a letter from the school governing body advising an “action plan” following the meeting held on Wednesday night.
“We understand that emotions are running very high and we, as a governing body, want to advise you on the plans we are putting in place based on suggestions received at the meeting, to ensure that the school can move forward, ensuring the safety of every child at the school,” read the letter.
The department of education has now been called upon to conduct an investigation into those teachers who were alleged to have been at court. Those teachers have “been requested to stay away from school pending an investigation”.
The department will also be at the school from Monday to conduct an age-appropriate “child’s rights and child protection” awareness programme for the pupils.
The notice to the school community also states that further session for those who were “counselled” by the school’s former counsellor would be arranged.
“The staff are currently compiling that list and all parents will be notified if their child’s name appears on that list,” states the letter.
The school’s former counsellor has been charged with several counts of sexual abuse and is in custody, having been denied bail. The arrest has sparked outrage in the community.
Darren Marc Goddard stands accused of sexually molesting pupils at a former model C school in Pietermaritzburg and has been described as a “prominent local cycling star”.
Goddard, 32, lives on a rented smallholding in Otto’s Bluff and was employed at the school as a counsellor.
Having attended school in Westville, Goddard, in his affidavit to court, denied culpability and pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.
Goddard holds a master’s degree in psychology and is a qualified teacher. Represented by attorney Siva Chetty, Goddard said in his affidavit that he vehemently denied the allegations against him and that the alleged incidents took place.
“I counselled the children in my professional capacity and I deny any conduct tainted with turpitude. More particularly, those children were referred to me on a professional basis by other educators after they were screened by professionals,” said Goddard.
He claimed he was falsely accused and that there was no substance to his arrest.
Goddard, who has strong links with a local childhood cancer fund-raising organisation was to have taken part in a major cycling marathon fund-raiser recently. With a keen interest in cycling, he said he was “well known in the cycling fraternity in South Africa”.
Magistrate Mercia Boikhutso said he had not shown exceptional circumstances to justify his release on bail. He remains in custody but his lawyer has indicated that he intends taking the matter on appeal to the high court.
In denying him bail, Boikhutso said the counsellor was a flight risk, as he did not live on property that he owned and could tamper with evidence or influence state witnesses.
Applauding the decision to deny the counsellor bail, education MEC Mthandeni Dlungwane, who sat in the dock throughout proceedings, said he was “satisfied” with the outcome.
– Caxton News Service