School puts out 'alert' to students

ALANA DIXON
Last updated 05:00 17/11/2012

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James Hargest College has sent a "stranger danger" warning to parents of pupils at the school, after a 17-year-old was approached by a man in a van.

The report is the third similar incident within Invercargill in just a week.

Yesterday, James Hargest principal Andy Wood said a student was walking near the school on Thursday when a man in a white van, got out of the van and approached her.

The details of the incident had been passed to police, and the school issued the warning to ensure other students and their parents were aware of what had happened, Mr Wood said.

"Obviously, the more people that are aware of someone [who] is stooging around, the better."

It was the first incident of this nature reported to the school recently, "but I think it only needs one".

The college was aware of a similar incident in a different part of Invercargill earlier this month, he said.

At the school's junior campus, teachers had reinforced messages around personal safety, while year 9 and 10 students at the senior campus would also be reminded of those messages through the school's daily notices, he said.

Senior students were on exam leave.

"It's just to reiterate those messages, but not in a way that increases hype or causes alarm, just to do it calmly, and issue reminders for students . . . as far as I'm concerned, publicity about this issue is good as long as it's not hyped, just because I think the more people that have their eyes open, the better," Mr Wood said.

Last night, acting Senior Sergeant Dave Kennelly said police were investigating an incident involving a 17-year-old James Hargest College student.

A man described as European, with grey hair, about 1.7m tall with a slim build, was reported to have approached the girl in a white van, possibly with grey upholstery, as she walked along Layard St.

He attempted to grab her arm, but she ran from the scene, Mr Kennelly said.

Police wanted to hear from anyone who may have seen the van or noticed suspicious behaviour in the Rosedale and Windsor areas, he said.

While police had not visited schools to warn pupils of "stranger danger" since the three recent reports, police education services reiterated those messages to children and young people, he said.

"What we can say is we've been actively patrolling and we'd just urge anyone with any information to come forward."

Police were yet to determine whether there was a connection with an earlier incident in the city, Mr Kennelly said.

On November 9, a 13-year-old girl was followed by a vanload of males as she walked to school, in Ness St. The van followed her for about five minutes, before the males opened the door of the van and spoke to her. She then ran into Russell Square.

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Four days later, a 16-year-old girl was followed, this time by a man on a bicycle, on her way to school. He dismounted and followed her for three or four minutes through the Harvey Norman car park towards Mary St.

- The Southland Times

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