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Carolyn's story

The look of fear etched on her nine-year-old son’s face as he stood next to his teacher triggered alarm bells, but it would be nearly a decade before Carolyn would know the cause.

‘I was picking Tim up from school, and noticed he had tears in his eyes. Mr Levinger was keeping him really close, and told me he’d been sick that day. Something just seemed really odd and I now believe that was the day Levinger masturbated him.’

Tim attended an elite Anglican boys’ school, and was sexually molested by his Grade 5 teacher over the course of a year in the early 2000s. Carolyn volunteered a lot of time assisting in Tim’s classroom, where, she told the Commissioner, she had witnessed Mr Levinger’s ‘touchy feely’ behaviour towards her son.

‘Levinger sent Tim a cheque for his birthday which seemed strange, but we were new to the private school system which is very old fashioned and had its own way of doing things. I asked Tim if he was okay, and he said he was. I saw the teacher liking Tim as a good thing, because teachers like good students and I wanted Tim to do well. I trusted the school to have very high standards.’

In the late 2000s, Tim broke his silence to reveal details of the sexual abuse first to his girlfriend, then his parents.

‘I spoke to the school about it and was urged not to go to police. Levinger was suspended. I took Tim to the police station to provide a statement and Levinger was arrested and charged.’

Tim was one of several victims to testify at the first trial, but since Mr Levinger was employed at the school for over two decades, Carolyn feels that number represents the ‘tip of an iceberg’.

She described the court process as a distressing ordeal.

‘I learnt that the school principal had long been aware that Levinger often behaved inappropriately with students. In fact, Levinger received three warnings about his improper conduct with students between 1999 and 2004, based on information provided by other teachers in the school.’

Following an appeal and retrial Mr Levinger was found guilty and imprisoned.

Subsequently Carolyn commenced a civil action against the school and Tim received a settlement of $375,000 and his parents received $80,000.

Carolyn said Mr Levinger was not the first ‘sexual predator’ to roam free in the schoolyard, and told how the sexual abuse and the school’s ‘trivialisation’ of it has left her family fractured.

‘My son spent 10 years with a monster in his head, with suicidal thoughts from the age of nine and my younger son’s had a mental breakdown. Yet you still hear teachers and parents say the kids exaggerated their stories for the money. I feel betrayed, humiliated and disempowered, all because corrupt and incompetent people in positions of power at an elite institution failed in the duty of care over and over and over again.’

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