Student protection officer did not know what grooming was

A STUDENT protection officer has testified she was concerned about her colleague giving lollies to year seven girls but she had no idea what grooming was.

Catherine Leigh Long, who still works at the Toowoomba school at the centre of the 2007 child abuse scandal, told a Royal Commission on Monday  she had been a teacher for 32-years and had worked at the school since 2003.

In a statement shown to the commission she outlined her role at the primary school which cannot be named.

"During my role as student protection contact, my name was displayed on posters in classrooms and other areas of the school," she said.

"Students were reminded at assembly that I was the student protection contact and I was available if they needed to talk to me about problems or concerns."

She also expressed concerns in her statement about the conduct of fellow student protection officer Gerard Vincent Byrnes.

"At the time I had previously noticed Mr Byrnes giving lollies to year seven girls and having a number of them around him in the playground.

Catherine Leigh Long (centre) leaving court after giving evidence at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Brisbane on Monday, February 17, 2014. Picture: Adam Davies
Catherine Leigh Long (centre) leaving court after giving evidence at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Brisbane on Monday, February 17, 2014. Picture: Adam Davies

"I thought it was inappropriate for a teacher such as Byrnes to allow this to happen but, at the time I did not believe that it was an indicator that Byrnes was causing any harm to the children."

Ms Long told the commission she felt Byrne "should have known better" given he was the school's other child protection officer and had received the same training as herself.

Junior counsel assisting the commission Andrew Naylor asked Ms Long if she was familiar with the term grooming and whether she believed that was being displayed at the time.

"I still do not know how people groom, so probably not," she said.

The commission then viewed Ms Long's handwritten notes taken during a meeting on September 6, 2007, between the school's principal, child victim KH and her father KQ when the initial allegations surfaced.

She told the commission she took notes in point format exactly how KH had expressed them.

"Mr Byrnes put his hand in my shirt twice the other day and he also did it with KE," her notes read.

"He also put his hands up our skirts and I feel uncomfortable."

She went on to tell the commission she was simply there to take notes and it was not her responsibility to pass on information revealed during the meeting. She said that was the responsibility of the school's principal Terence Hayes.

The royal commission continues.


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