Brisbane Grammar teacher knew of paedophile, sex-abuse royal commission told
The first official confirmation of a teacher knowing about paedophile behaviour by notorious school counsellor Kevin “Skippy” Lynch at exclusive private school Brisbane Grammar has emerged out of the royal commission investigating child abuse responses.
The shock admission could call into question the multitude of compensation claims and settlements involving Lynch’s more than 100 victims from what was one of the state’s worst ever private school abuse scandals.
The admission is contained in a late statement from a former teacher to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which was investigating Lynch’s abuse of students at two Brisbane private schools in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
Lynch, who killed himself in 1997 after being confronted by police investigating abuse allegations, was alleged to have abused more than 70 students from Brisbane Grammar where he worked as a counsellor in the 1970s and 1980s.
He went on to abuse dozens more when he moved on to St Paul’s School at Bald Hills on Brisbane’s northside.
The abuse only became public after one of his victims Nigel Parodi went on a violent rampage, ambushing three police officers sitting in a car and shooting them at close range before going on the run and eventually killing himself in a north Brisbane park.
After the Lynch revelations appeared in the media, numerous victims came forward, leading to schools paying out well over $1 million in compensation.
Grammar alone reached settlements with more than 70 former students.
However, during the legal actions, no current or former teacher at Brisbane Grammar is believed to have gone on the record to admit they knew of Lynch’s paedophile tendencies, according to lawyers who have worked on the cases.
Now in a startling move, a popular former mathematics teacher at the school, Donald Francis, has submitted a statement confirming a student had told him about paedophile behaviour by Lynch.
Lawyers say the admission confirms for the first time that someone working for the school had knowledge of the abuse, potentially having an impact on the school’s liability.
Mr Francis, who taught at the school from 1973 to 1981, did not go on to tell his superiors of the abuse, fearing they would not take him seriously and because he believed Lynch’s explanation.
A student, who was having behaviour issues, had made the complaint to Mr Francis.
Mr Francis said the incident happened after he sent the student to see Lynch for counselling as per normal practice.
When the student returned, Mr Francis said the boy vowed never to go back to Lynch because, he said, the school counsellor had asked him to remove his pants.
“[The student] was not a great communicator and he looked down saying he was not going back there [to Lynch] again,” stated Mr Francis.
“I asked him why ever not and my recollection was that he said; “He [Lynch] asked me to drop my pants. “I was certainly taken aback by this response but really did not know in the small space between lessons how to pursue this.”
Mr Francis says he agonised over what to do and discussed it with his wife and his general practitioner.
The doctor told him that the actions of Lynch were a “breach of allowable behaviour” by a counsellor, Mr Francis said.
Mr Francis said he was concerned as he was aware that the situation was delicate because Lynch had a good name, Lynch’s wife was a counsellor at Girls Grammar School and Lynch himself had children at both schools.
Mr Francis said he decided to confront Lynch.
“I went up to see him near his room adjacent to the Great Hall and told him of my concern about [the student’s] report to me,” Mr Francis said.
Mr Francis said Lynch responded in “his most confident waggish style” claiming the student sought reassurance that his genitals were normal and Lynch was merely giving reassurance.
Mr Francis says he was relieved at the explanation and indicated that he would not be taking the matter further.
He said his concern “later turned to sorrow” when Lynch killed himself.
He indicated he did not go to authorities after news of the abuse broke as he was not sure that his story “would have added anything”.
Mr Francis said he believed if he had gone to then headmaster, Max Howell, to report the abuse he would have been rebuffed “in that peremptory way that Max Howell defended his school against any criticism”.
Mr Howell, who died in 2011, denied knowing about any abuse by the school’s counsellor.
Mr Francis stated: “Like many people I am very sad that I could possibly have curtailed this behaviour that causes so much heartache and trauma but did not have sufficient grounds to do so.”
Contacted on Friday at his Brisbane home Mr Francis said he regretted not coming forward sooner but had not believed that his story was important enough to do so.
Brisbane lawyer Frank Carroll represented a number of victims who sued Brisbane Grammar in the mid to late 2000s.
Mr Carroll said at the time of the actions it was understood the school did not make any admission of knowledge about Lynch’s abuse.
He said if lawyers representing victims had known that a teacher had been told, then that would have been very helpful.
“Any sniff of awareness would have helped us. It would have helped us in giving more confirmation of the abuse and led to more liability on the school,” Mr Carroll said.
“It would have been encouraging to know that the curtain of silence might be pierced more easily than we thought.”
Mr Carroll said he had represented a number of victims of the school.
“Their matters were resolved with confidential settlements,” said Mr Carroll, who is now a consultant to Carroll Fairon Solicitors in Brisbane.
Brisbane Grammar declined to comment on whether compensation claims would be affected by the admission.
A Grammar spokesman said: “The matters raised, including this statement, remain under consideration by the royal commission, which is yet to release its report into the case study.
“We respectfully await that report and any findings available to the commission, in recognition of the established process of this inquiry.”
Mr Francis was approached by the royal commission in late November to give a statement.
He said a friend of his who knew of his experience with Lynch had told the commission.
Mr Francis said that, when he was approached, he agreed immediately to tell his story.
Numerous students have previously claimed to have alerted teachers at the school to the abuse.
But none of the teachers nominated have ever admitted to being told.
One document submitted to the commission lists seven different students who were plaintiffs in legal actions as having had significant conversations about the counselling at various times.
One student said he asked a teacher about the counselling and the teacher then stated: “I’ve heard rumours” and tried to induce the student to “join the Church of Scientology”.
Another student in the document alleged when he told one teacher that Lynch had molested him, the teacher replied, “That’s rubbish.”
In another case a student said a teacher’s reaction to the what was going on was to say, “That’s all part of the program.”
A number of teachers named by students in commission documents as having known of the abuse have given statements denying they knew Lynch was abusing children.
No student is believed to have named Mr Francis as having known.
Mr Francis said he has since reconnected with the student who made the initial complaint to him.
He said the individual confirms the account of what happened but had not reported the matter to the commission.
The royal commission is expected to release a report into the Lynch matter later this year.
If you or someone you know is in distress, phone Lifeline 13 11 14, Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800, or royal commission 1800 099 340.