“Culture of cover-ups” claims made against leading Melbourne girls’ school

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

More details have emerged about Melbourne Girls Grammar School’s Head of Learning Enhancement, David Simpson, following the South Yarra school’s announcement of his death to the school community on 18 August.

Shockwaves since the teacher’s sudden death, after child safety issues were reported to police in June and July this year, continue to impact staff, students, and families at the prestigious private school.

Mr Simpson had a previous role as head of science at Haileybury, in Melbourne’s south-east, had also been head of middle school at Tintern Grammar, in the city’s north-east, and worked as a teacher at St Helena Secondary College, in the northern suburb of Eltham.

Mandatory reporting matters

In the case of the recent MGGS issues, news media has reported that Victoria Police had given the school directions in relation to Mr Simpson regarding mandatory reporting and child safety procedures at the school.

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It is believed a student was sent an obscene photo by Mr Simpson. Other allegations include that Mr Simpson rubbed the shoulders of female students and spoke with girls at the school about orgasms.

The Herald Sun also reported that two teachers raised concerns about Mr Simpson’s behaviour and “closed door meetings and multiple girls in his office all the time” earlier this year.

With news that the school’s principal, Dr Toni Meath, nominated Mr Simpson as an inductee of the Department of Education-run teacher excellence program at the Victorian Academy of Teaching and School Leadership earlier in 2023, questions are now being asked by some members of the school community whether complaints about the teacher were known prior to his nomination.

Dr Meath declined to confirm when she first became aware of allegations against Mr Simpson but the school maintains that child safety policies and laws have been followed.

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But with reports that the school received complaints from teachers and students in February this year – related to an allegation of touching a student inappropriately – calls for Dr Meath to stand down as principal, and for a formal investigation into the child safety practices undertaken at Melbourne Girls Grammar, are growing louder.

A parent at the school told media there has been a “culture of cover-ups” at MGGS.

“The school knew about issues with Simpson’s behaviour months before the allegations surfaced,” she said. “Students have a right to come to school and feel safe.”

A MGGS spokesperson said: “We reiterate that the school followed its child safety and mandatory reporting procedures, including notifying Victoria Police, and our priority remains on supporting students, staff, and families.”

Crisis support is available from Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live