In 2018 the award-winning true crime podcast, The Teacher’s Pet, exposed a dark underbelly of Sydney’s picturesque Northern Beaches. The podcast began as an investigation into the unsolved disappearance of Lynette Dawson in 1982. Ultimately it uncovered a toxic culture of sexual misconduct between teachers and students at many of the area’s local schools.
The podcast shared stories from many former students of Cromer High School and surrounding public schools. These people gave horrific accounts of teachers exploiting their positions to enter sexual relationships with students – while many adults turned a blind eye.
Since its launch, the Teacher’s Pet has been downloaded more than 27 million times. And its global reach has helped magnify an issue which had been silenced for decades. Importantly, the podcast gave former students and victims a platform to share their stories. Now, those students and many more, are calling for accountability and fighting for justice.
Maurice Blackburn Abuse Law practice – which specialises in claims for people who have experienced physical or sexual abuse – is currently representing several of these former students. As more people tell their stories, we expect this number to grow.
While attending Cromer High School in the 1980s, Adam* was groomed and sexually abused by his Art Teacher, Mr Peter Scott.
Mr Scott was known to take students back to his home after school hours, offering drugs and alcohol as part of the grooming process. In fact, in 2014 he was convicted of sexual offences against children whilst a teacher at Cromer High School. He is currently in prison.
Adam speaks about several occasions where Mr Scott abused his position of power. On one of those occasions Adam was asked to attend the gymnasium to work on a video. However when he arrived, he was made to watch Mr Scott sexually abusing another student from his school.
Mr Scott was within arm’s length from Adam. Eventually he reached over and put his hand up Adam’s school shirt whilst he continued to stroke the other student.
Adam says he remembers feeling strange and absolute confusion. He thought everyone looked up to Peter Scott so wondered if what he experienced was normal. This unsettling and upsetting abuse was Adam’s first sexual experience and he ultimately questioned his sexuality.
A complete disregard of duty of care
It was the toxic culture at Cromer High School that allowed people like Peter Scott to get away with such blatant abuse. It would have been impossible for executives and fellow teachers of the school not to have known about his behaviour. And yet, no action was taken to put an end to these actions and behaviour.
In a New York Times article, another former student alleges the Department of Education and the police turned a blind eye. “The environment at Cromer High and other public schools in the area was compounded by a lack of willingness by those in authority to exercise a duty of care,” says the student, Robin Wheeler.
Maurice Blackburn’s Abuse Law practice fights for justice
Many Northern Beaches abuse survivors have come to Maurice Blackburn for help in understanding their rights and entitlements. Maurice Blackburn’s Abuse Law practice is suing the NSW Department of Education of behalf of our clients. We will be arguing that the Department did in fact fail in its duty of care.
For these former students no amount of compensation can undo pain and suffering caused by the abuse. However, through making a common law claim they can fight to have their suffering acknowledged. And receive financial support to help them move on in their lives.
Find out more about making a claim through Maurice Blackburn: https://www.mauriceblackburn.com.au/injury-law/abuse-law/
*Name changed to protect privacy.