Pamapuria School was warned about young boys having sleepovers at the deputy principal's home three years ago, the disgraced teacher's lawyer says.
James Robertson Parker, 37, pleaded guilty in the Kaitaia District Court on Wednesday to 49 charges of sexually abusing schoolboys and is due to be sentenced on November 15. Police are urging any other victims to come forward.
Parker, deputy principal at the school 10km south of Kaitaia for six years, led the kapa haka group and was highly regarded in the community. He was arrested on July 13 after a boy told his mother, who went to the police.
Defence lawyer Alex Witten-Hannah said on the day of the court hearing police showed him a strongly worded warning letter they had sent the principal in April 2009, urging the school to stop sleepovers at Parker's home. The letter had followed a "tentative" complaint from a parent. However, the complaint could not be substantiated. The day before the letter was sent police had interviewed Parker at length, contrary to reports he was never warned. However, Parker had not seen the letter until this week.
"My perception was if James had been shown the letter it would have scared the pants off him and he may have stopped," Mr Witten-Hannah said.
However, Parker was not blaming anyone for not taking stronger action to warn him and accepted full responsibility for what he had done, he said.
The school's board of trustees and its chairman Ian Bamber, a former Far North District Council member, resigned after Parker's arrest. Mr Bamber said he was not on the board when the first allegations surfaced in 2009 and was shocked when he found out about the letter last month.
The Education Review Office, CYF and the school board of the time knew about it, he said.
The ERO, however, said yesterday it had no record of concerns about Parker until last month. Principal Stephen Hovell, who is on leave and could not be contacted, is reported to have asked Parker to stop the sleepovers.
The board was replaced this month by commissioner Larry Forbes, who said the revelations had been an enormous shock to the school. "It was just a sense of disbelief that this could possibly be the case, so it was stunning news for people and they've had to deal with it in their own way."
The school would conduct its own investigation into how the abuse continued for so long.
"I'm sure there will be a lot of questions asked within the investigation and a lot more that will come out of it that we will need to answer. The scope will be huge."
The Advocate understands the offences occurred at Parker's rural home near Awanui, north of Kaitaia, and not on school grounds. He is understood to be recently married with a young child.
Community leader Ricky Houghton likened the revelations to an earthquake shaking the ground under families' feet. A hui was planned at Pamapuria's Te Paatu Marae today.
Among Mr Houghton's concerns were making sure the children understood they were not at fault, and that the parents who took their concerns to police in 2009 and again last month did the right thing.
Police are urging anyone with information that could help their investigation to call 0800 900 502.