In 2005, NSW school teacher John Fittler was charged with four child sex offences allegedly committed while teaching at Crows Nest Boys High School in the mid-1970s. He was found dead the next day, apparently by suicide.
Fittler was employed as a teacher at Sydney Boys High when the charges were laid by police. The NSW Education Department suspended him immediately, but this did not stop Sydney Boys High principal Dr Kim Jagger from talking glowingly of Fittler’s honesty and good character following his death.
In a eulogy published in the 2005 Sydney Boys High Record, Dr Jagger described Fittler as ‘a fine member of staff’ and ‘a man of pride and vision’.
He asserted that Fittler was an ‘upright, honest person’ and, in what seems to be a reference to his suicide following the abuse charges:
‘I can only speculate that a combination of recent events brought him to the point where he could only see his immediate future as a choice between dying on his feet or living on his knees. He chose the former. I can understand why.’
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Sydney Boys High’s support of the alleged child sex offender did not end there; in 2006, the school established the Captain John Fittler Memorial Prize, which they awarded to ‘the student who displays unwavering devotion to any cause that serves the ideals and ethos of the school’.
The School continued to celebrate this award right up until 2018, naming a recipient each year which was then published in their annual journal. The Fittler Memorial Prize was listed each year under the section for ‘Awards of Honour and Distinction’.
It is unclear why the Department of Education condoned the celebration of Fittler for so long or what finally prompted the school to stop celebrating the award after 2018.
Fittler was a former member of the Army Reserves and began his teaching career as an Officer of Cadets in 1968. He started at Birrong before later transferring to Ingleburn High School, followed by the Crows Nest Boys High School cadet unit.
He taught at Sydney Boys High from the late 1990s until his death in 2005.