Northern Beaches parents were kept in the dark about a school employee arrested with child abuse material.

Questions are being raised about the culture of secrecy that has kept school parents and the Northern Beaches community in the dark over an alleged paedophile employed at a local high school.

The 28-year-old male employee of the Department of Education was arrested following a police investigation into cybercrime. Suspicions were raised when malware was found on the Information Technology (IT) systems of a school. Yesterday evening (Tuesday, 26 March), a report in The Daily Telegraph revealed the school involved was The Forest High School at Frenchs Forest.

The Forest High School

The Northern Beaches Advocate has confirmed via a second reliable source that report is correct, and the school involved is The Forest High School.

Following the discovery of malware, detectives attached to NSW Police State Crime Command’s Cybercrime Squad commenced an investigation last month, which led them to speak to the male employee of the school on Monday, 04 March, at an address at Matraville.

While speaking to the man, police said they seized the man’s phone and computer, and during a forensic examination of the phone, they found child abuse material. According to the police statement, the child abuse material is not linked to the school, and does not involve any students at the school.

Police allege the man had deliberately infected school IT systems with malware on school computers, which was in various stages of development and deployment, and at least 41 members of staff had their personal information captured, including credit card details.

Protection from hackers

Following further inquiries, the man was arrested at 9.25am yesterday morning (Tuesday, 26 March) at Maroubra Police Station, where he was charged with offences including; unauthorised modification of data with intent to cause impairment, possess identity info to commit etc indictable, two counts of unauthorised function with intent serious offence (penalty<=10 y), and possess child abuse material.

He was granted strict conditional bail to appear at Waverley Local Court on Wednesday, 08 May 2024.

Commander of State Crime Command’s Cybercrime Squad, Detective Superintendent Matt Craft, praised the Department of Education for identifying this issue so early.

“The Department of Education cyber team have a robust system able to detect these types of offences, and it’s through their diligent work that this issue was reported early, and the offender detained quickly.

“Teachers and staff at our schools are in a position of responsibility and privilege; and anyone that abuses that position will be dealt with accordingly by law enforcement,” said Det Supt Craft.

Despite publicly acknowledging the arrest, no mention was made of the school involved. Neither NSW Police nor Department of Education spokespeople would confirm the school involved. Both refused to comment in response to specific questions from the Northern Beaches Advocate that named the school.

The Forest High School

The Forest High School, which is soon to relocate from Frenchs Forest (image above) to Allambie Heights, is known to be an excellent public school with dedicated teaching staff and positive leadership. The decision by the Department of Education not to confirm the school involved raises questions about a culture of secrecy.

Following media reports and inquiries from the Northern Beaches Advocate, it is understood a communication has been sent to parents of The Forest High School today regarding the man’s involvement with the school and arrest.

The Department of Education advised today that the man has been suspended from duty. It is understood he is not a teacher, but had access to school IT systems, and remains employed by the Department at the time of writing.

A NSW Department of Education spokesperson said that their cyber security branch actively monitors for threats against staff and students on a 24/7 basis.

“We detected malware and reacted quickly to identify the cause and mitigate the risk.

“The quick resolution of this incident reflects the robust system that the Department’s cyber team has in place to detect these types of offences,” said the Department spokesperson.

The Department spokesperson declined to comment further in response to specific questions about the status of the man’s employment and the school he is employed at.

If you are a parent at The Forest High School who receives a communication about this matter today, we are interested to see it. Please email it to editor@northernbeachesadvocate.com.au

Images: Envato, Northern Beaches Advocate (file)

Crime Stoppers 1800 333 000

NSW Police are seeking public assistance in relation to this matter. If you have any information that may assist them with their inquiries, please contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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