More allegations of `culture of bullying’

25 Nov

TUESDAY 25 DECEMBER, 2008

An independent inquiry is to be carried out into allegations of a culture of bullying at New Plymouth Boys’ High School.

Last night NPBHS board of trustees chairman Jamie Sutherland said the board, after a full meeting, had requested that the New Zealand School Trustees Association appoint an independent inquiry team to look into the allegations of bullying at the school.

“The board and the school will co-operate fully with the inquiry, which will be given the widest possible brief, with a request to report back as soon as possible,” Mr Sutherland said.

The board and the school wanted to provide the best possible educational opportunities in a safe and appropriate environment.

“We will take all steps possible to ensure that environment is created and maintained,” he said.

Mr Sutherland said the board was shocked by the allegations and did not believe that there was systemic bullying at the school.

Police are investigating an alleged assault at the school last week that left a year 12 student with two black eyes, a cut to his head that required stitches and swollen face.

The announcement of the inquiry comes as a former teacher, and parents and more students of the school, continued to claim bullying was rampant at the school.

A group of senior boarders and day students came to the school’s defence yesterday, against their teachers’ advice, admitting there was bullying at the school but saying it was no different to any other school in New Zealand.

Yesterday a former NPBHS teacher who has shifted schools came forward to support students’ claims that the abuse was widespread.

“During my time at the school a senior student reported to me that as a boarding student he had been raped with a bottle,” he said.

His complaint was not taken seriously by staff and was not investigated.

“He reported ongoing abuse during his time at the school. He said that his time in the hostels had ruined his life,” he said.

Day students had also reported being bullied and beaten up but little or no action was taken.

“I did not see a school-wide response that addressed the culture of intimidation that appeared to be written off as `boys being boys’ and was occurring throughout the school.”

The bullying culture was not confined to students, middle managers (heads of department) would threaten and intimidate junior colleagues, he said.

“The deliberate undermining of junior colleagues and campaigns to get individuals fired or to resign were not isolated incidents according to longer serving staff members.”

Yesterday a former student spoke about the effects the abuse had on him as a 13-year-old boarder in 2006.

He said the assaults and verbal taunts started on his first night in the hostel.

“I wasn’t feeling good at all. I just wanted to leave and get out of there,” he said.

The boy said there was no reason for the attacks.

He reported the abuse to staff who told him things would be dealt with – but they weren’t. “They (the bullies) knew that you had told and would say they were going to get me.”

He stopped reporting the abuse and felt there was no-one he could turn to.

“I felt that I couldn’t tell anyone, I couldn’t trust them and I tried to stay away from them,” he said.

His mother said she feared her son could take his own life.

“I’m terrified that I won’t have a child at 21, I’m terrified that I won’t have a child at 16,” she said.

She said it took a long time for her son to tell them about what was happening.

“He became very withdrawn.

“He had always been a happy outgoing kid.”

Her son returned from his year at the school a different person.

“He is not the child that I sent to boarding school, he is a shadow of his former self.

“As a parent you just can’t work out what to do or say to make it better, there is nothing.”

She blamed the school’s lack of action for the culture that still exists at the school.

“There needs to be a clean out of the old boys network. If you are an old boy’s son and connected in the right way, you can get away with anything.”

Another mother echoed her comments. Her 15-year-old son attended year 11 at NPBHS for five months in 2006.

“He was picked on from day one. He was taunted, laughed at and pushed and shoved around and physically attacked.”

When she complained to staff she was fobbed off.

“He told me `you need to tell him to keep his head down and to toughen up’.”

Her son was scared to sleep.

He said he had witnessed some brutal hidings dished out by prefects.

“The prefect made an Asian student get down on his hands and knees on the floor and he started kicking him in the middle around the ribs.”

The boy said the prefect then made the student kneel with his head against the wall and ordered everyone in the hostel to file past and kick him in the backside.

-TARANAKI DAILY NEWS

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