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Labour MP says he wasn't downplaying use of weapons

MICHAEL FOX, JOSH FAGAN AND SIOBHAN DOWNES
Last updated 15:49 25/06/2014
ROBERT KITCHIN/Stuff.co.nz

Labour's Mangere MP Su'a William Sio explains his comments of "Boys will be boys" when discussing stabbing involving schoolboys.

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Labour MP Su'a William Sio admits he could have chosen his words more carefully when he said "boys are gonna be boys," but insists he wasn't trying to downplay two schoolyard stabbings in South Auckland. He also has a warning for outsiders - "don't judge us".

The comments come after an 11-year-old boy was admitted to Starship Hospital where he remains in a critical but stable condition after being stabbed at Pacific Christian School in Mangere yesterday morning.

Two teenage schoolboys are also recovering from injuries from a separate stabbing at nearby Southern Cross Campus in Wickman Way later the same day.

Sio has been criticised for his comments on TVNZ's Breakfast this morning when he said "boys are gonna be boys" in relation to the latter incident.

"I spoke to the principal last night, it was a mixture of students that got into a fight, I don't know why, the school is investigating that, the police are investigating, and simply I would say to those boys 'grow up'," he said.

While the Mangere MP maintains violence will occur from time to time, he denies he was downplaying the incidents or the use of weapons.

"It was taken out of context, I was asked a question in reference to a group of older boys who were fighting outside a high school and maybe I could have said it a little bit better. The line I've been saying is that boys are going to be boys but we don't expect our boys to be fighting with knives and that's the allegation that's been made."

Sio blamed his choice of words on the fact it was early in the morning and the fact he was rushing to catch a plane "and maybe I could have said it better".

EXPERT CRITICAL

Victoria University school of psychology research fellow Dr Jaimee Stuart said she did not agree with Sio's comments, as it downplayed violence as normal behaviour.

"I think that saying is often something we use when we talk about violence and young people as a way of diminishing that, and saying, 'it's just part of growing up'.

"The more we say that, the more it becomes OK, and it's not OK."

Headmaster of boys' school Wellington College Roger Moses said "boys are going to be boys" sounded like a "throwaway comment".

"If 'boys being boys' means stabbing somebody, then clearly that's unacceptable," he said.

"It's a terrible thing and obviously a deep concern to everybody."

TRYING TO DEFLECT COMMENTARY

Sio said he had spoken with some community members who were offended by his comments while he had also received some messages of support.

He had not yet spoken to the parents of the children involved in the incidents following his comment but believed they would not be offended if they saw it in context.

He said he was trying to deflect some of the negative commentary.

"I am very protective of our community because we don't want people to get carried away with the emotion and get carried away by promoting the negative stereotypes that get thrown at our community constantly."

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The community was focussed on trying to protect its young people "but from time to time it's been made known in our community that for one reason or another some young people... end up carrying weapons and that's just intolerable".

Sio said Mangere was a working-class neighbourhood filled with families scraping to get by and this contributed to some of the violence among young people.

"We are aware of it, we don't condone it and we work extremely hard to ensure that our schools are safe our communities are safe and that there is a set of morals by which all of our communities live by."

He was frustrated by focus on negative incidents and stereotyping and asked people not to jump to conclusions "or judge us".

"I just dislike it when people start throwing stones when they don't live in that community, they don't wear the shoes of these families that's why I've asked people just be patient, let us deal with what we've got to deal with."

- Stuff

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