In yet another scandal for the Catholic Church in Australia, St Kevin’s College, one of Melbourne’s most expensive Catholic schools, is facing a storm of condemnation after revelations its headmaster provided a character reference for an ex-coach when he was being sentenced for sexual violations with a 15-year-old student.
Headmaster Stephen Russell and Luke Travers, the St Kevin’s dean of sport, provided the reference for 60-year-old Peter Kehoe in 2015 after he was convicted for sexual conduct with a child under 16 years. That child was year-nine student Paris Street, who will appear on ABC’s Four Corners program tonight as part of a special report into an alleged cover up at St Kevin’s of the scandal, and the school’s failure to provide him with support during the court process.
Kehoe’s grooming included inviting Street to engage in sexual acts with him, invitations to share a bed, and sending the 15-year-old extremely inappropriate messages on social media. Kehoe was ultimately convicted of sexual conduct with a child under the age of 16 years and received a community corrections order.
Speaking to The Australian, St Kevin’s old-boy speechwriter and author Joel Deane described the principal’s behaviour as a “betrayal of everything the school says it stands for.” Chrissie Foster, a prominent child abuse campaigner, has also demanded the principal’s resignation in comments she made to the Age saying. “I think he has shown that he should not be headmaster”.
The support both Russell and Travers provided to Kehoe contrasts with how the school treated Street. Street mother, Caroline Redmond, contacted Russell to raise Kehoe’s inappropriate behaviour towards her son. She was assured that she had nothing to worry about and that he was “of good character,” according to the ABC. And, while both the principal and dean of sport were happy to provide character references for Kehoe, according to a Tweet from ABC journalist Louise Milligan, staff at the school have been informed they will be sacked if they speak to the media. The school has not responded to a request for comment.
With fees approaching $19,100 a year, the single sex school, is considered one of the most elite in Melbourne, but in recent years it has made headlines for all the wrong reasons. In October of 2019 a group of students were filmed chanting misogynistic songs on public transport, leading to suspensions and a debate about the school’s problematic culture.
This is also not the first time students from the school have been the victims of predatory behavior. Both of the 13-year-old boys that Cardinal George Pell was convicted of sexually abusing were students at St Kevin’s.
ABC’s Four Corners will air the story at 8:30 PM tonight.
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