Parents take on school bullying

JODY O'CALLAGHAN
Last updated 05:00 16/06/2014

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A couple who allege that their 9-year-old son was strangled, tackled, stomped on and witnessed a classmate being stabbed in the back with a pencil is fighting back at what they believe is a ''bullying culture'' within a Christchurch school.

Cameron and Emily Taylor are ''emotionally drained'' after worrying about the safety of their child at Oaklands School in Halswell.

The Taylors removed their son last week to enrol him in another school and they claim there are four other families who have done the same this year.


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The school is investigating their formal complaint, its spokesman and lawyer David Beck said.

He refused to comment in detail until the formal complaints procedure was complete in a couple of weeks and was unaware of any other formal complaints made about bullying at the school.

''All complaints are serious of that nature. Of course we're taking it seriously.'' 

Cameron Taylor said his son was bullied the two years he was at the school, but previous teachers were able to manage it.

On May 19 the boy was pinned against a wall, strangled and gashed on his arm with a bully's fingernails.

A week later he was tackled to the ground and stomped on until he needed treatment for contusions and soft-tissue damage to his shoulder and arm.

Despite the boy informing the school, no-one contacted the boy's parents after either incident, Taylor said.

''There's been a failure right through. They haven't been able to do anything to resolve the bullying issue.''

The ''pat them on the back, off you go, make friends'' way of the school did not work.

The couple were ''riled'' when told by letter that continuing to contact the principal for answers would force the board to take action by ''seeking a trespass order or laying a complaint with police under the Harassment Act''.

''It's victimisation all over again. It creates an environment where the bullies flourish.''

Taylor was ''disgruntled'' after a meeting with the school's board on Wednesday, at which he believed the lawyer ''shut us down'' and made them feel that the school did not care now that their son was no longer a pupil. 

Their son was ''no longer waking with nightmares, he's happy to go to school and is bubbly and cheerful again''. 

They knew of six different Oaklands parents dealing with bullying concerns, four of whom had also taken their children out of the school.

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''They're [the school] obviously not on top of it because it's still continuing.''

Wendy Hodgkinson's daughter needed counselling after repeated bullying at Oaklands left her unable to eat or sleep.

Her bullying was now resolved, but Hodgkinson believes that wider bullying issues were ongoing and ''rampant'' at the school.  

''The problem is with how they are viewing things. It's the denial thing.''There were ''several families who had left because of bullying''. 

Another parent said that her daughter - now 7 - had a rib fractured, was locked in a toilet by a bully at the school and had to be pulled out of the school after getting nowhere with a formal complaint laid last year.

''It got to the point where I was physically sick about leaving them [children] at school.''

She claims it was a ''toxic environment''.

While the school denied there was a problem, there were ''lots of unhappy families''.  

''I can understand a bit of schoolyard banter, but when it comes to physical violence I don't understand.''

Education Ministry spokeswoman Katrina Casey was aware of the bullying allegations at Oaklands and said the board would be given any support required to resolve the matter. 

An October 2013 Education Review Office report stated: ''The school's values are highly reflected in the positive relationships between staff and students . . . Teachers' caring, inclusive practices support students' wellbeing and sense of belonging''. 

- The Press

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