When Todd learned that one of his fellow teachers had been accused of molesting a student, he did everything he could to ensure that the complaint was handled properly.
‘I’m that sort of person’, he said. ‘I take things on seriously. Great commitment … That’s what life is about: that you committed yourself.’
Todd was working as a senior teacher at a Victorian primary school at the time. One morning in the early 1990s the principal, Mark Holder, called a staff meeting.
‘He said, “An incident has occurred. It occurred last night with Daniel. At the moment there’s an accusation made by a child, that was a Grade 5 boy. Daniel denies that anything occurred. It’s the child’s word against Daniel’s word”.’
The principal went on to say that Daniel was on sick leave until further notice, then concluded the meeting by saying, ‘No one will speak about anything under any circumstances’.
Todd was immediately suspicious. The accused teacher, Daniel Foley, had arrived at the school under strange circumstances. He’d left his old post abruptly and had taken a substantial demotion and pay cut. Also, he happened to be one of Mark Holder’s close friends. Finally, there was Holder’s tone when he made the announcement at the staff meeting. He sounded, ‘aggressively defensive’.
The more Todd thought about it the more convinced he became that something wasn’t right. He took his concerns to Holder and encountered his first ‘brick wall’. Holder dismissed Todd’s worries, assuring him that Foley was to be kept on sick leave while a full investigation was conducted.
Later, Todd discovered that Foley’s sick leave had been cut short and he’d been transferred to another primary school in a nearby town. Todd went back to the see Holder.
‘I said, “This is not right. What sort of investigation has gone into this?” “Oh, it has been investigated”. I said, “By who?” And he said: himself and the Region. Now the “Region” is the regional senior education officer.’
Holder ordered Todd to go back to class. Unsatisfied, Todd returned a few days later to push his concerns. Holder told him to get out and never mention the matter again.
So Todd went to see the ‘Region’, a man named Greg Watts. Here he came up against brick wall number two. Watts said exactly the same thing as the principal: that a full investigation had occurred and there was nothing to worry about.
There were three more walls after that. Todd went to the police and told them what had happened. He tried to be as honest and thorough as he could, telling them that he had no ill-will against Foley or Holder and acknowledging that he respected them both and that he hadn’t actually seen the abuse happen. But, he said, he was worried about the way the matter had been handled.
The police said that they couldn’t do anything unless Todd wanted to lay charges. Todd said that he didn’t have the evidence, and so the police told him there was nothing they could do.
Back at school a few days later, Todd ran into the ‘police-in-schools’ officer who sometimes came to do educational activities with the kids.
‘I brought her aside, said, are you aware that this has happened last Thursday – or whenever it would have been. And, one, she wasn’t aware of it, so I told her. And she didn’t do anything.’
Finally, Todd put the issue to his fellow teachers.
‘I said, “Where do you stand on all this?” I tried to appeal to them as human beings, as teachers. [They said] “You know, we don’t want to make a fuss, and Mark said there’s been an investigation” and that sort of stuff. And I said, “I understand that. And I’ve got no evidence whatsoever … but to me this is not the way it should have been dealt with”.’
After that, Todd tried to carry on teaching but it felt wrong.
‘I really couldn’t go on working with that guy and that system, so the result of this was a big upheaval in my life … It ended my career. I’ve never had a leadership position since.’
Over the next few months he spent some time studying and doing odd jobs between bouts of unemployment. During this period he rang up an anti-paedophile hotline, told them what had happened and gave them his contact details. He hung up wondering if he’d hit another brick wall. In fact, the phone call did lead to action, it just took several years.
By then it was the mid-90s and Todd had left Victoria to take up a junior teaching position elsewhere. Out of the blue he got a call from a police officer who worked in a little town not far from Todd’s old school. The officer wanted information on Foley, who had been working in the town as a primary school teacher. Police were charging him, the officer said, with over 25 counts of child sexual abuse.
Todd told the officer everything he could. Sometime later Foley was convicted and sent to jail for two years. Neither Holder nor any of the other ‘brick walls’ have ever been held to account. Todd bears them no ill-will; he only wants the story to be told.
‘I suppose I just wanted to purge it from my soul. Up until yesterday it just wasn’t public. Holder had just thrown a wet blanket over everything. And that was it. As of today the blanket’s been pulled off a bit.’