Top coach who had secret relationship with schoolgirl named

Fri, Jun 9
Andrew Maclennan.

Andrew Maclennan, a top sports coach in Christchurch, had a "secret" sexual relationship with a schoolgirl and then impregnated her after she'd left school, a court judgement released today states.

Maclennan — who has worked with the Crusaders, New Zealand Rowing, the Black Sticks Women and Athletics New Zealand, among other roles — was first charged with serious misconduct over the relationship at the NZ Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal.

The charges under the Education Act were dismissed in March 2021 by the tribunal for lack of jurisdiction, because it understood Maclennan wasn't a registered teacher at the time of the relationship.

But that decision was appealed to the District Court in Christchurch, where it was accepted there was jurisdiction to consider charges up until his registration ended in November 2010. The court found some of his actions, between August 1, 2008, and the end of that year, amounted to serious misconduct.

The student's name is suppressed and she is referred to as Student A in the court judgement.

A summary of the facts, accepted by both parties in the complaint, states that Maclennan met Student A at an athletics camp when she was 15, in Year 11, in 2006. Maclennan was 39 and he coached her at the camp.

After the camp, he continued to coach her, and he also tutored her in maths.

In December 2006, Student A's parents asked another athletics coach to speak to Maclennan. They'd heard allegations about him having relationships with young girls, the summary of evidence states.

Maclennan told the coach that he wouldn't coach Student A any more, and he was asked not to contact her.

When Student A's parents told her she wouldn't be coached by Maclennan any more, they wouldn't tell her why, and the girl's relationship with her parents "deteriorated". She continued to secretly text Maclennan.

"They would text regularly including late at night," the summary of evidence states.

"[Maclennan] told Student A that she would not be able to make it in athletics without his help."

After that, in 2007, Maclennan began to meet with the girl for secret, unpaid coaching, without her parents knowing.

They "also met regularly in a local park where they would talk about personal issues".

The parents contacted Maclennan directly and asked him to have no further contact with Student A.

He emailed back and said he wouldn't — but contact continued.

In March 2008, the student was in Year 13, and she turned 17. On her birthday, Maclennan kissed her and gave her a necklace, and they started meeting at his home, despite a warning to Maclennan from Student A's new coaches advising him to stay away from her.

Student A's parents confronted Maclennan in person early that April to reiterate that he was not to contact her.

The relationship continued.

'The first time they had sex'

Maclennan and Student A had sex for the first time that month, at Maclennan's house. It "became a regular part of their relationship".

"Following the first time they had sex, Student A suffered from ongoing anxiety," the summary of evidence states.

"This is disputed by [Maclennan], who says that Student A had always struggled with anxiety."

Her relationship with her parents continued to worsen and she started sneaking out four or five times a week to see Maclennan, who would sometimes pick her up from school.

He would park away from the entrance, asking her to sit in the backseat so people didn't see them together.

In June 2008, the girl's parents engaged a lawyer. The lawyer wrote to Maclennan, asking that contact between the pair end, and again, Maclennan said it would, but the relationship went on.

The girl started missing classes and her grades started to drop. She missed out on university entrance.

She also became depressed and started to self-harm, the summary of evidence states.

"At one point, she received treatment from a crisis team and received regular counselling," the summary states.

"The respondent told her not to tell her counsellor anything that could get them in trouble... [he] also threatened to commit suicide."

The evidence does note that Maclennan told Student A "on occasion" that she shouldn't spend time with him, as it was getting in the way of her normal teenage life — but she said she'd rather see him.

In August 2008, Athletics New Zealand were alerted to the situation.

At a meeting between two senior Athletics NZ members and Maclennan, he denied having sex with Student A, and again agreed to end contact with her. Then, in January 2009, she moved to Dunedin to enrol in a polytech course.

In February, she discovered she was pregnant to Maclennan. The conception date was estimated to be about two months earlier, in December. The pregnancy was terminated.

Student A turned 18 in March 2009, and the pair continued their relationship, albeit living in different cities.

Maclennan's response

Maclennan "accepts in hindsight that he should not have entered" the relationship, the court judgement states.

He said "she was looking to me to replace what her parents weren't doing and offer her guidance and support".

He said Student A "was very difficult to shake off" and that he initially declined her sex "on numerous occasions", adding he "completely" rejected any insinuation that the sexual activity was forced on the girl. Maclennan said she was a "very sexual person".

"Student A did not begin to suffer anxiety because of this," he stressed.

"She had always been a very anxious person with many troubles."

The court decision

The court found Maclennan engaged in serious misconduct during the period from August 2008 to the end of the year.

During this time, Student A was 17, still at school and living with her parents. She was at a "vulnerable stage of life and had emotional difficulties which must have been obvious to Mr Maclennan".

The court points to the age gap, the "unequal relationship" with Maclennan's position as Student A's coach, the continued false promises to stop contact and the denial of the relationship.

Maclennan remained a registered teacher at this time, and the court found his actions would likely bring discredit to the profession.

The court censured Maclennan — the only penalty available to the court.

Where to get help.


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