News State Victoria News Embattled college’s deputy principal asked to step aside as allegations widen

Embattled college’s deputy principal asked to step aside as allegations widen

st kevins deputy principal
St Kevin's deputy principal Janet Canny has been asked to step aside as the investigation into the school continues. Photo: ABC
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The deputy principal of St Kevin’s College, Janet Canny, has been asked by the school’s governing body to step aside pending an investigation into allegations she pressured a staff member not to report inappropriate conduct.

Following a grooming scandal at the school, Four Corners on Wednesday revealed allegations Ms Canny mishandled a complaint about alleged sexual misconduct by a teacher towards a child.

The Catholic school has been under scrutiny since Four Corners revealed its headmaster and dean of sport provided references for convicted sex offender Peter Kehoe, but did not provide support to the victim of his grooming during the court process.

Headmaster Stephen Russell resigned on Thursday and dean of sport Luke Travers was stood down.

Wayne Tinsey, the executive director of Edmund Rice Education Australia, which oversees the school, said in a statement that Ms Canny had been asked to “step aside from her duties” pending the investigation into the allegations.

The former head of counselling at St Kevin’s, Maree Keel, alleges the college responded inappropriately and inadequately to a complaint she made about inappropriate sexual conduct by a teacher in 2019.

“Mrs Canny strongly refutes these allegations,” Mr Tinsey said in the statement.

“The investigation will receive the highest priority and be conducted by professionals external to the College and EREA.”

In an action filed in the Fair Work division of the Federal Court on Wednesday, Ms Keel claimed she became aware of the inappropriate conduct in August 2019 and had an obligation to report it under mandatory reporting laws.

She alleges in a meeting about the issue, Ms Canny told her she was being “disloyal to St Kevin’s College” and “unwilling to co-operate with St Kevin’s College leadership in the same way as her predecessors”.

“Ms Keel stated to Ms Canny that she was concerned about Ms Canny’s obstructive involvement in three mandatory reporting incidents that year,” the statement of claim said.

Mr Bornstein said Ms Keel felt under enormous pressure “not to make the complaints to authorities, not to fulfil her obligations under mandatory reporting legislation, which is very strict, and that created an untenable situation for her”.

Ms Keel also claims Ms Canny described her as “uncooperative and vexatious” and threatened to reduce her hours and abolish her role.

EREA is yet to file a response to the statement of claim.

EREA announced on Wednesday the headmaster of St Patrick’s College in Ballarat, John Crowley, would be appointed acting principal of St Kevin’s.

“Our students and their wellbeing are our priority and given this latest development, John Crowley will assume the position of acting principal of St Kevin’s College today,” Mr Tinsey said on Thursday.

Mr Crowley gained publicity in 2019 when he removed George Pell’s name from a wing of classrooms at St Patrick’s College, after Pell’s conviction for child sex offences became public.

The school was also the first in Victoria to sign onto a child protection curriculum that explicitly teaches children how to recognise child abuse.

Mr Tinsey said Mr Crowley would be introduced to school staff on Thursday.

-more to come