William Vahey taught at Portland Place campus from September 2009 to June 2013. Having left the School in 2013 to teach in Central America, Vahey was subsequently discovered in possession of a number of abusive images of students from Southbank Westminster campus and other schools, images which it would appear he obtained having drugged students on school trips that he ran. Vahey committed suicide following the reporting of these images to the FBI, and both the FBI and the Metropolitan Police have since that time been investigating the scale of his criminal behaviour over his entire teaching career. It is now known that Vahey’s criminal behaviour spanned over 40 years and may have occurred in up to 10 international schools in 9 different countries. It is clearly very upsetting to consider all of the lives which have been impacted.
Spotting Signs of distress in young people
It is advisable to give young people opportunities to talk about their thoughts and feelings and to encourage them to access the available support. Sometimes young people feel unable to talk about how they feel, however their distress may be communicated through their behaviour. As parents and carers you will be best placed to spot the signs of any changes. The development of some behaviours can act as a clue that a young person is experiencing a level of distress that requires professional advice. These include:
- Noticeable changes in behaviour
- Disturbed sleeping or eating patterns
- Declines in physical appearance
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Loss of interest in usual activities, appearing pre-occupied
- Expressions of feelings of hopelessness
- Expressions of feelings of self-harm or actual self-harm
Long-term reports from adult survivors of abusive situations suggest that access to specialist professionals is most effective when it is provided early on. If you are concerned about the well-being of a child or young person it is important not to delay, but to ask for help either by contacting your doctor.
Contacting the Police
Families with young people that went on trips organised by Vahey are entitled to request support in accessing information gathered during the Police investigations.
To make this request, contact either Westminster Children Services on +44 (0)207 641 4000 or the Metropolitan Police Child Abuse Investigation Team on +44 (0)208 785 8529 and asking to speak to someone in relation to Southbank International School, William Vahey, or Operation Kalpasi.
Families can receive emotional support (in addition to and separate from the support outlined here) and access to records through this route, now and in the future. All enquiries of this nature will be handled sensitively and with respect for confidentiality.
National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC)
The NSPCC is a charity that can offer confidential advice and support. They have an array of resources and information here: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/ and can be contacted anytime on their helpline: 0808 800 5000 or by email : firstname.lastname@example.org
National Association of People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC)
- NAPAC are experts in helping people to recover from childhood abuse. They have excellent resources on their website www.napac.org.uk including a booklet entitled “Untangling the Web of Confusion” which can be accessed here: http://napac.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Untangling-the-web-of-confusion-leaflet.pdf
- For individuals aged 18 or over NAPAC also operates a helpline which is free from landlines and mobiles. All of NAPAC’s helpline staff are available to speak to you confidentially to talk through concerns. You can contact NAPAC’s helpline on 0808 801 0331 in the UK. The helpline operates from 10am to 9pm Mondays to Thursdays and from 10am to 6pm on Fridays.