A deputy principal accused of raping a male student more than 20 years ago has lost his unfair dismissal claim.
While the man never faced criminal charges over the alleged assault, Catholic Education WA concluded the allegations were substantiated “on the balance of probabilities”.
Deputy principal loses unfair dismissal
Donald Andrew Parnell filed a claim for unfair dismissal following the termination of his employment from Lumen Christi College in August last year.
The WA Industrial Relations Commission heard horrific details of the brutal attack which allegedly happened in Indonesia in 1997.
Students from MacKillop Catholic College in Busselton, where Parnell worked as a teacher, had been on a school study tour.
On the final night of the trip, Parnell shared a hotel room with the Year 11 student when the rape allegedly took place.
While the boy did not disclose details of the attack for many years, soon after returning home, he asked to change schools and subsequently suffered with drug and alcohol addiction.
Before taking his own life in October 2018, the student told a number of family and friends about the alleged rape.
He also wrote about it during subsequent counselling sessions.
Following his death, the boy’s parents contacted the Catholic Education Office, which commenced an investigation.
It involved interviews with family and friends, other students who went on the trip, in addition to experts in childhood sexual assault.
Parnell strenuously denied any wrongdoing describing the allegations as “heinous and sickening”.
However, the investigation concluded that the allegations had been substantiated on the balance of probabilities.
Lumen Christi College sacked Parnell for serious misconduct as a result.
Unfair dismissal claim
The deputy principal argued in the Commission that Catholic Education found no direct evidence against him during the investigation.
Furthermore, he claimed the employer had relied on hearsay and circumstantial evidence.
In response, Catholic Education maintained it gave Parnell “a fair go” and had a valid reason for dismissal.
Senior Commissioner Stephen Kenner pointed to overwhelming circumstantial evidence in his decision.
He concluded “it is open to draw inferences more probable than not … that the most serious allegation of misconduct complained of, had occurred.”
“These inferences, open on the material accessed as a whole, go beyond mere conjecture or surmise.
“All the material, including the circumstantial evidence, supports the primary conclusion reached by the [CEWA investigation] … ‘with some conviction’.
“For the foregoing reasons, the dismissal of the applicant for misconduct was not harsh, oppressive or unfair.”