EXCLUSIVE: Katoomba High School principal, Jennifer Boyall, has now gone on so-called “long service leave” in the face of credible claims of a long cover-up over a number of alleged rapes and sexual assaults of teenage girls involving male students at the Blue Mountains school. It comes just a few years after Ms Boyall was alleged to have acted slowly when a predatory popular teacher was targeting female students. Tayla Foster investigates.
Parents of students that attend a prestigious Blue Mountains public high school are furious over the alleged cover-up, misconduct from staff and lack of protection their children face with revelations NSW Police have apparently investigated three separate allegations of rape and sexual assault involving at least three male students.
It has only just recently been revealed by the mainstream media that one now former Katoomba High student is currently before the courts and is facing eight counts of sexual assault, charges to which he has plead not guilty.
In recent weeks, it has also been revealed by the media that the NSW Department of Education has been involved in a 15-month long investigation into the school, following complaints from parents about how the matter had initially been handled by school authorities.
The Department’s investigation is supposedly “examining whether any staff member at Katoomba High School have engaged in misconduct”.
Angry parents now say they feel like they have been let down by the Department of Education too, following an investigation which seems to have gone nowhere.
RELATED: COVER-UP ENDS AS TRUE CRIME STEPS IN! After our exposé Katoomba High School finally makes announcement about arrest of teacher Gavin Malcolm Duncan for alleged sexual abuse of schoolgirl but scandal only grows
As such, it can now be revealed by True Crime News Weekly that NSW Police have set up Strikeforce Woolalla to investigate a totality of three separate serious incidents of alleged rape and sexual assault linked to male students connected to Katoomba High School. In each case, the alleged victim has been a teenage girl. The Department of Education’s internal investigation is also aware of all the incidents.
And now, exasperated parents are squarely laying most of the blame onto principal, Jennifer Boyall, who has in the past few days hastily taken two month’s leave from her role as head of the school as both NSW Police and the Department of Education continue to investigate.
Shockingly, it has even been alleged by one parent that they held a meeting with Boyall in the week leading up to the alleged rape of their daughter.
In the meeting, the parents claimed to have spoken about the lack of action being taken against a group of boys at Katoomba High who had been regularly engaging in allegedly intimidating and sexually abusive behaviours against their female classmates.
The parent also claimed that they complained to Boyall about the lack of action against one boy at the school.
“The rape of our daughter was preventable,” the unnamed parent told the Sydney Morning Herald previously. “Four days before our daughter was raped, we met the principal and asked her why this boy had not been spoken to by police.
“We had already written to the school asking them to report him and the other boys in writing to the police. They failed to do that and in doing so they utterly failed in their duty of care to our daughter. If the police had been properly brought in, this boy would not have dared go near our daughter.”
Now on long service leave: Katoomba High School principal, Jennifer Boyall, is being asked by parents why better action was not taken to protect girls at the prestigious Blue Mountains school (Image: Supplied)
The news of the first alleged sexual assault involving a male Katoomba High student sparked obvious outrage within the community when it was revealed by media last month and even more so due to the fact that it was kept concealed from unaware parents and caregivers for almost 18 months.
The teenage boy, who cannot be identified publicly, was charged in January 2021 just as the police began their investigation into the school itself with the establishment of Strikeforce Woolalla. He has been alleged to have raped a female classmate at a high school party in November 2019, that took place off school grounds. The Department of Education commenced its internal investigation into the school a year later in December 2020, just a month before the boy was charged by police.
The boy was also charged with choking as well as assault and faced the NSW Children’s Court where he has pleaded not guilty. A magistrate will be deciding his fate next month, in May.
This assault, however, was not the first scandal to rock Katoomba High School.
Three years ago, True Crime News Weekly exclusively revealed that a popular male maths and PE teacher was engaging in sexual relations with a 17-year-old female student under his care.
Gavin Malcolm Duncan was eventually sentenced in 2020 to 15 months in prison, with a seven-month non-parole period for his crimes. As our exclusive investigation revealed at the time, it was alleged Ms Boyall had been warned about the questionable conduct of Duncan for some time while the school principal also received reports about other teachers also fraternising with young students at pubs in the Blue Mountains.
“As a parent, I have real concerns as to why Jennifer Boyall was allowed to remain Principal of Katoomba High School after missing something that bad,” one parent connected to the school told True Crime News Weekly this week. “She should have been sacked right?”
NSW Police nor Strikeforce Woolalla would respond to various requests for comment when approached by True Crime News Weekly.
The grave allegations surrounding Katoomba High over the past few years however does call into question the role of the school’s board as well as the Department of Education.
Arrested in 2019 for sexual abuse: Former Katoomba High School teacher Gavin Malcolm Duncan (Image: Supplied)
In May 2021, six months after the investigation into the school began, Boyall was bizarrely awarded a $16,000 Harvard scholarship by the Public Education Foundation and the Harvard Club of Australia. When Boyall received the award she was described by the Education Department as an “exceptional leader” who has displayed “outstanding leadership”. Only three such scholarships are given out at a time.
It must be asked, what “outstanding leader” would seemingly look the other way on child protection issues when it comes to the important matter of the health and safety of their students?
Why was the Department so effusive in its praise of a person it’s also investigating over serious child protection issues? Did it not realise the effect it would have on alleged victims and their families who claim that at every step of the way they have felt like a burden? A person pronounced as an “outstanding leader” yet one who has only seemingly offered only justifications for gross inaction?
Boyall’s prestigious scholarship however has now been put on hold (perhaps indefinitely) while her school and own role as principal is investigated by the Department of Education.
Just as the decision to pause Boyall’s scholarship was announced by media last week, the school principal then elected to take “long service leave” until the end of May. Some parents now hope Boyall never returns.
“How many times does Boyall have to screw up before she gets fired?” one parent told True Crime News Weekly.
True Crime News Weekly understands that some families of alleged victims are now preparing to sue Katoomba High and the Department of Education. The NSW Ombudsman has also been contacted by parents eager to have the poor handling of the matters investigated further, with claims the school and Department of Education has dawdled on taking appropriate action on such serious issues in a timely manner.
Inquiries and requests for comment sent by True Crime News Weekly to both the Education Department and NSW Education Minister, Sarah Mitchell, have been met with no response.
The stony silence and delayed action from politicians, bureaucrats and the authorities though has not been enough to prevent the truth of the matters to slowly filter in the public realm, brought on by a combination of frustrations from parents, families and victims alike, living through their worst nightmare.
– Additional reporting and research by Serkan Ozturk