A former teacher at Knox Grammar broke down as he laid the blame for his son’s ill health and early death squarely on the school he once respected.
John Rentoul, whose son David died aged 44 after a series of illnesses, told a national inquiry into how the Sydney school handled sex abuse allegations that he only found out in 2009 that his son had been abused by a teacher.
Dr Rentoul only found out about the abuse when David, who was at the school in the late 1970s, was giving evidence against his abuser Barrie Stewart.
“I was shocked and outraged when David told us of the abuse,” said Dr Rentoul, who taught at the school from 1969 to 1980.
He became emotional as he told how his son revealed he felt terribly ashamed and guilty because Stewart was a family friend and this led him to hide the abuse for 30 years.
“I absolutely believe that the extreme stress, guilt and shame David suffered as a result of the abuse directly lead to his health issues and also resulted in his marital problems.”
He said his son’s immune system was compromised by prolonged and sustained periods of post traumatic stress and he could not fight a lung infection which led to organ failure.
Dr Rentoul said the family had welcomed Stewart as an excellent teacher and arranged for him to give David piano lessons.
“My wife and I believe there should be some accountability for our son’s prolonged suffering and unnecessary death,” he told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
He said they believed the commission should ensure that “institutions such as Knox be held accountable for failing to protect its students against sexual predators.”
Dr Rentoul also said “private schools are more susceptible to instances of sexual abuse because of more opportunities for the development of close relationships between teachers and students during extra-curricular activities, and because of the prevalence of boarding establishments”.
Another witness who used the pseudonym ARY said students could not talk about the abuse because if they did they were seen as weak and considered as everyone’s “bitch”.
He said that during his time at the school he observed systemic bullying by teachers and by students of other students. He blamed the culture at the school on the headmaster for 30 years Ian Paterson.
“Paterson and his rule dragged the school through a dark age that it should never had had, particularly as a Christian institution,” he said.
The hearing continues before Justice Jennifer Coate.