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How ‘toxic’ elite schools’ whistleblowers were silenced

PARENTS and staff who lodged "bullying" complaints against the executive principal of two elite Moreton Bay colleges were forced to sign confidentiality agreements during an investigation into his conduct and performance.

James Sloman, executive principal of Moreton Bay College and Moreton Bay Boys' College in Manly West, has been on leave for seven weeks following a probe by the schools' joint board after it received scores of complaints from parents and current and former staff.

Moreton Bay College Principal James Sloman. Picture: AAP Image/Richard Gosling
Moreton Bay College Principal James Sloman. Picture: AAP Image/Richard Gosling

Key concerns included unacceptably high and abrupt staff turnover and a "toxic, bullying culture" unbefitting Uniting Church-associated schools.

Angry members of the Pre-Prep to Year 12 schools told The Sunday Mail they were made to sign documents to gag them from speaking to the media.

In September, complainants were sent a letter referring to the "private" probe into Mr Sloman that began in August.

"The purpose of this letter is to ask for your participation in this process and to make sure that we manage confidentiality," it said.

"In particular, we ask you not to speak about the concerns raised or investigation other than to us, the board, to the appointed investigator Q Workplace Solutions, or to our lawyers, Clayton Utz."

The gates of Moreton Bay College in Manly West. Picture: AAP Image/Attila Csaszar
The gates of Moreton Bay College in Manly West. Picture: AAP Image/Attila Csaszar

The letter was signed by three board members, including chair John Eisenmenger, who resigned in January this year.

"When the interviews actually took place we were made to sign strict confidentiality agreements - but we were never given a copy of the agreement to take with us," said one parent, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

"We asked the investigator if the executive principal would be shown the report with our input and were told yes, and we were worried about repercussions for our children."

Another parent said: "The schools promote 'be an upstander not a bystander' but now whistle-blowers are fearing retribution. The lack of transparency is appalling."

In December, the board advised complainants that once the investigation was finalised, it would communicate the "next steps".

There has been no correspondence about the probe since that time.

Mr Sloman last week lodged a "stop bullying" complaint against the colleges with the Fair Work Commission.

He claims he is being victimised, linking the investigation to a swimming program overhaul, communicated to parents in November.

The colleges' board has declined to comment.


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