Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Kate Lyons

Cranbrook school principal resigns over allegations he knew about teacher’s ‘extremely concerning past conduct’

Nicholas Sampson has resigned as the headmaster of Sydney private school Cranbrook.
Nicholas Sampson has resigned as the headteacher of Sydney private school Cranbrook. Photograph: Julian Smith/AAP

The headteacher of the prestigious Cranbrook school in Sydney has resigned after it emerged he allegedly knew one of his teachers had engaged in “extremely concerning past conduct” and kept him in his position.

An emergency meeting of the school council was held on Thursday to investigate Nicholas Sampson’s response to the incident.

“The circumstances of the matter and subsequently Mr Sampson’s failure to disclose the matter to the current school council … have led to an irrevocable breakdown of trust between the headmaster and the school council,” Geoff Lovell, the president of the council, wrote in an email to parents at the school on Friday.

“The school council communicated this to Mr Sampson and this morning received his resignation.”

“The allegations do not involve past or present Cranbrook students. The Senior School teacher involved was immediately placed on leave pending the School’s further assessment of the matter,” wrote Lovell.

Guardian Australia understands the “past conduct” related to graphic emails sent by the teacher to a former student when the student, from a previous school, was an adult. The teacher was investigated by police at the time and found not to have engaged in criminal behaviour, it is understood.

The teacher was also investigated by a team from the Association of Independent Schools of NSW, which concluded the teacher had engaged in “no reportable conduct”, meaning his behaviour did not need to be reported to the Office of the Children’s Guardian, according to a source familiar with the AISNSW report.

Guardian Australia has not seen a copy of the report but understands it suggested Cranbrook could examine whether professional boundaries had been violated.

The teacher exchanged graphic sexual emails with a woman in her early 20s who had been a student of his when he worked at a previous school. In them, he allegedly talked about sexual fantasies about her and her classmates, according to the source familiar with the AISNSW report.

The emails were sent while the teacher was working at Cranbrook and were reported to the police, the AISNSW, the teacher’s former school and to Cranbrook.

Sampson was aware of the incidents but kept the teacher in his position, the school council said. The council said it became aware of the allegations against the teacher on Thursday.

AISNSW said on Friday that Cranbrook engaged its services in 2015 to conduct an investigation into three “potentially reportable conduct allegations” made against one of its staff members.

“These matters are obviously highly confidential. Every alleged victim and every alleged person subject of allegations has a right to a rigorous and unbiased investigation,” the association said in a statement.

“AISNSW has a team of qualified and experienced child protection investigators, including ex-police detectives, and works closely with the Office of the Children’s Guardian and police when conducting investigations on behalf of schools.

“AISNSW investigated the allegations and provided its findings to the school. At all stages of the investigation, the school remains the decision-maker. AISNSW’s findings were reviewed and upheld by the NSW Ombudsman.”

This is not the first time Sampson has been accused of mishandling complaints against a staff member.

Sampson appeared before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in 2016 in relation to his handling of an incident while headmaster at Geelong grammar school.

In 2004, Sampson was informed that one of the teachers, Jonathan Harvey, had allegedly sexually abused a boy in the 1970s. Harvey was later found guilty of sexually abusing a 16-year-old boy.

The commission criticised Sampson for keeping Harvey in his job for several months after learning of the allegation, paying Harvey to retire early, and writing him a glowing letter praising his “outstanding service”.

The latest incident comes at the end of a difficult week for Cranbrook which was the focus of an ABC Four Corners investigation on Monday.

The program included interviews with former staff and students who claimed the school had a toxic culture, including bullying, sexual harassment and sexual abuse.

After the episode aired on Monday night, Cranbrook school council issued a statement saying: “The council has considered in detail the matters raised by the ABC and remains fully supportive of the headmaster and the school’s leadership.”

“Cranbrook takes all allegations of abuse, and its duty of care to its students, extremely seriously and follows relevant and mandatory reporting processes in relation to these matters,” the school council said.

“We acknowledge survivors and their stories.”

Sampson and the teacher were approached for comment via Cranbrook.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.