St Kevin's principal resigns over grooming scandal

The principal of St Kevin’s College in Melbourne has resigned following an ABC 4 Corners investigation into the school’s handling of the grooming of a student by an athletics coach.

In a letter sent to parents and guardians today, headmaster Stephen Russell wrote that during his 24 years with the Toorak boys college he had “always tried to put the school before self and the students’ wellbeing at the very top of my list of priorities”.

“I believe the current situation means that the best way to achieve this is to resign.”

The 4 Corners investigation revealed on Monday night that Russell and the college’s head of sport, Luke Travers, had provided references for convicted child sex offender Peter Kehoe. But little support had been offered to the students who accused Kehoe of inappropriate sexual behaviour.

Kehoe is a St Kevin’s old boy who coached athletics at the college for 40 years. According to the 4 Corners report, both Russell and Travers officially supported Kehoe’s character during and after the 2015 trial where Kehoe was convicted of grooming student Paris Street (who was 15 when he gave evidence in court).

Street and fellow student Ned O’Brien, who also gave evidence about Kehoe, were not contacted by St Kevin’s before the trial began.

The college’s handling of Kehoe’s case has been described as a “cover up” by O’Brien’s mother Jo, who revealed that a staff member had called her on the first day of the trial to ask if her son would be wearing the college’s blazer to court.

One of Victoria’s elite private schools, St Kevin’s ‘Visions and Values’ state that it aims to create “a community that is wholeheartedly committed to the Christian education of young men, in the tradition of Edmund Rice.”

Edmund Rice Education Australia takes its name from a wealthy 18th-19th Century Irish businessman who “believed that education was essential to liberating young people from their circumstances”. On Tuesday, Edmund Rice Education Australia stood down Luke Travers from his position as St Kevin’s head of sport.

Public scandal about St Kevin’s culture made headlines last year with a video of students singing a sexist chant on a Melbourne tram.

St Kevin’s also is linked with the high-profile case of Catholic Cardinal George Pell being found guilty of sexually abusing two 13-year-old choirboys. At that time, the victims were on St Kevin’s scholarships.

The Victorian Government has announced an investigation into child safety standards at St Kevin’s College.