Hutt Valley High School

September 7th, 2011 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Lane Nichols at Dom Post reports:

Hutt Valley High School pupils were subjected to torture, extreme violence and sexual abuse, but school authorities failed to protect victims, alert parents or report numerous attacks to police.

A long-awaited Ombudsmen’s Office report reveals chilling details of systemic violence at the school, intimidation and abuse. It also identifies a history of failing to punish culprits or acknowledge the seriousness of their crimes.

A gang of six teens terrorised classmates in late 2007, chasing younger boys around the school, dragging them to the ground to remove their pants then violating them with a screwdriver, scissors, branches, pens, pencils and drills.

And what did the school do? Cover it up!

When the offending was identified, the 1700-pupil co-ed state school did not alert victims’ parents, police or Child, Youth and Family. It instead chose to stand down the culprits for a few days.

Incensed parents eventually learned of the attacks and complained to the Human Rights Commission and Ombudsmen’s Office.

One of the nine victims had holes ripped in his trousers during an assault. Another was kicked in the face when he refused to kiss his attackers’ shoes after being sexually violated.

The decile 8 school played down the attacks, saying, “It wasn’t an assault where somebody had blood spilt” and describing the incidents as “minor”.

The school did not play down the attacks. Some individuals did. I don’t know whether it was the school principal, the board chair, or someone else – but they should be named and shamed.

When quizzed later by Ombudsman David McGee about the attacks, school management said an investigating police officer was on a “crusade” and “out to make a name for himself”.

Who are these school management people? Do they still work there?

School bullying is not minor and trivial. It causes kids to kill themselves. For many kids it turns what should be five of the best years of their lives into an era of terror and fear.

Tabling his report in Parliament yesterday, Mr McGee described the attacks as “a pattern of repeated, premeditated, systematic assaults”. He slated the school’s response, inadequate discipline policies and failure to implement Education Ministry child abuse policies.

“Even disregarding the most serious allegations of direct penetrative assault, the systematic pack assaults with sharp objects and surrounding threats and intimidation … would seem to have justified, at a minimum, suspension of the perpetrators.”

Antisocial children were retained in the school and serious violence and sexual assaults went unreported to government agencies. The school also took it upon itself to interpret the results of a victim’s medical examination in favour of his perpetrators.

What was wrong with the school management that they acted in such a way?

According to a letter from another victim’s parent to the Education Ministry, no punishment was imposed for an earlier 2007 incident when a group of pupils held another boy down with a chain around his neck and tried burning him with a lighter.

A third pupil was pushed down stairs and kicked in the head and chest until unconscious in 2004.

This sort of behaviour should result in court action, not a school cover up.

Recently appointed Hutt Valley High School principal Ross Sinclair issued a full apology yesterday for the school’s actions. The school accepted it had managed the assaults poorly and made serious mistakes.

Mr Sinclair is new so can’t be held accountable. But he can clean out any of his senior management who were part of this reign of effective condoning of bullying and violence.

And likewise you have to wonder where was the board of trustees during this? They are meant to be the champion of parents – not force them to go to the Ombudsman. I wonder if a Commissioner should have been appointed?


March 30th, 2011 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

Video images of a 15-year-old Wanganui schoolgirl being kicked to unconsciousness by another girl in her class, have moved the Prime Minister to have all schools review their attitude to bullying.

“I worry about bullying,” he said, “I worry about youngsters going to school and being intimidated …” His concern sounds genuine, not driven by an opinion poll. If schools find it a little galling that he thinks they need this reminder, they should make the best of it.

They may have given a great deal of attention to bullying in its various forms, and devised carefully considered policies to guide their response to it, but this is their opportunity to assess whether the policy is working and give further thought to alternatives.

I thought the PM wrote to all schools was a good idea. It isn’t about finger pointing, but it would ensure that at the next board meeting there is a discussion about the current anti-bullying and activities, and whether they can be improved.

But sadly the NZEI gets all defensive, and puts out a PR saying:

Schools don’t need to be bullied into action

The education sector union NZEI Te Riu Roa says the Prime Minister is misguided to think that schools alone can stop bullying, as the root cause often lies well beyond the classroom.

John Key is instructing the Education Minister to write to all schools reminding them of their responsibilities and demanding they review their anti-bullying policies.

“Schools take bullying very seriously and encourage a zero-tolerance approach. They don’t need to be bullied into action,” says NZEI President Ian Leckie.

You know this really pisses me off. How dare Mr Leckie compare a letter from the Prime Minister to bullying, such as we saw with the 15 year old being beaten up. That just screams to me that the NZEI does in fact not give a fuck about bullying, if they just see it as a term to bash the Prime Minister with.

Leckie should be ashamed of that press release. It trivialises the issue.

Casey Heynes

March 21st, 2011 at 12:45 pm by David Farrar

This is the infamous video of Casey Heynes, who lashes out with a very nice lift and throw, after being bullied by other students. When you see the actions of the student doing the bullying, you don’t feel one ounce of sympathy for what then occured to him.

As millions around the world cheer Casey on, it is worth remembering what the sadness of what he has endured. The Herald reports:

Casey Heynes, 16, says he has been bullied nearly every day at his school, Chifley College, St Marys, in western Sydney, but could take no more when Year 7 student Ritchard Gale tormented and attacked him last week. …

Casey said his outburst was a “build-up” of more than three years of being attacked verbally and physically by other students.

“They used to slap me on the back of the head and said I was a fatty and to lose some weight.

“I’ve been duct-taped to a pole before as well. They target me because I don’t retaliate.

What is awful is that the school has never detected the bullying before now, and also that Casey didn’t feel he could go to anyone in authority about it.

Casey told A Current Affair he had been bullied almost every day at school and even contemplated suicide a year ago when the taunts became too much.

“I started putting myself down and all the crap just kept piling on,” he said. “That’s when I contemplated suicide.”

And sadly some kids do committ suicide due to bullying. More New Zealanders die from suicide than in car crashes.

A school can’t be everywhere at everytime. But a good school should have enough teachers around the grounds that they do get to see if bullying is happening, and making sure there are severe consequences for those who do bully.

Bullying at Howick College

November 6th, 2010 at 11:19 am by David Farrar

I doubt any school manages to be totally without bullying, unless they manage to be totally without pupils. But despite that limitation, the reports around Howick College seem to be a cause for concern, as reported in the Herald:

Mr Ropati’s comments came after dozens of parents and some students contacted the Herald this week when the father of a Year 9 Howick student said his daughter was being so badly bullied, he was forced to send her to South Africa for school.

If that many went out of their way to contact the Herald, it is hard to not conclude there is a wide-spread problem.

Several parents said their children had also been bullied while at the college, with some saying students had had to change schools because the bullying was so bad.

And if this is the case, it should be picked up in exit interviews.

The woman said her daughter endured “a good full year” of bullying in 2008. She said she was disappointed with college staff, who seemed to dismiss the situation. “We had to talk to the dean, counsellors. The counsellor just said it would suit everybody else if she just left. …

The woman said she and her husband tried several times to meet the principal at the time, but were told the issue was not important enough.

Another parent said a young relative of hers had been bullied so much he flatly refused to go to school.

“The school passed us from one manager to another and to cut a long story short, they essentially threw up their hands, said they had a very big school and couldn’t take on the problems of this child, and encouraged us to send him somewhere else.”

This is the part that causes the most concern. The senior staff were not willing to take action.

Mr Ropati – who became principal in January – said he would encourage the parents who had contacted the Herald to speak to him.

“We may have bullies, we may have bullying behaviour, but all schools are vulnerable.

“And I stress that we do take every bullying case very seriously.

“If that hasn’t happened in the past, then that is out of my control.”

The fact the principal is new, is cause for some optimism that things may improve.