Students meet to fight

JULIAN RAETHEL AND KELLY DENNETT
Last updated 05:00 03/04/2014
train station, school kid
DANGEROUS GROUND: Gatherings for fights at train stations have schools on alert.

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Students have been suspended at Kelston Boys High as management takes decisive action to stamp down on after hours brawling.

The suspensions follow two incidents on March 26 where large groups of students from separate schools congregated at the Henderson and Sturges Rd railways stations for pre-arranged fights.

Police and senior pupils stepped in to calm the situations and violence was avoided.

Witnesses say pupils from Kelston Boys High School and Waitakere College were present in large numbers.

Kelston Boys acting principal Robert Solomone says it's not the first time it's happened and staff are working on preventative measures with other schools to avoid repeat episodes.

"We don't want to let this lie," Solomone says.

"We've got the police involved and we've held conferences with the families of students."

Solomone says the latest incident appears to have been brewing for around four weeks and initially started with text messages between the involved parties.

It may also be linked to some "mocking" that occurred at Polyfest last month.

Solomone doesn't want either incident to tarnish the image of the school and says the community should be working collaboratively to turn the situation around.

"I can understand how a large group of boys doing this in public can be intimidating.

"We all need to work together.

"Kelston is achieving some really great things in the classroom."

Henderson High School is close to one of the railway stations where the students gathered.

Principal Mike Purcell is certain his students weren't involved.

His staff are active in making sure students get home safely and provide supervision at the Henderson train station, he says.

"We finish a little earlier than other schools and the message is simple for our students - to go home and get changed out of their uniforms."

Waitakere College did not respond to requests for comment but Auckland Transport has given police CCTV footage of the gatherings.

Auckland Transport spokesman Wally Thomas says incidents like this only happen twice a year on average.
The council-controlled organisation has engaged a security firm to provide extra security on the western line which includes roving patrols after hours.

Acting Waitakere police area commander Rob Cochrane says police are also taking a proactive approach to the issue.

"Police are aware of several recent instances where fights have been pre-arranged between teenagers from West Auckland high schools and have deployed proactive police patrols, including Youth Aid officers, to the areas to prevent any violence from taking place," he says.

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"We are working closely together with the schools involved to address this behaviour with their students."

Darren Wolley is centre manager of Westfield WestCity which is over the road from the Henderson station.

Trouble sometimes spills out into the surrounding area and his security team has previously been called in to defuse potential problems in nearby Catherine St.

Wolley says the mall works closely with businesses and police, sharing statistics and information relating to the centre and surrounding neighbourhood areas.

"We have a youth protocol which outlines the expected behaviour of youths when visiting the shopping centre environment," he says.

- Western Leader

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