Hutt High teachers tutored on violence

Last updated 01:21 22/01/2008

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Hutt Valley High School spent two days training teachers about school violence, but it was not enough to protect at least five victims from schoolyard attacks, where they were partially stripped and violated with various objects.

Five 13-year-old boys have been referred to the Family Court and a 14-year-old will appear in Lower Hutt Youth Court in relation to complaints by a 14-year-old victim, who claims his pants were pulled down and he was violated with a sharp object in the school grounds at lunchtime on December 6 last year. Court dates have not been set.

Board of trustees chairwoman Susan Pilbrow said the board was assisting police in an investigation that has escalated to involve serious attacks against at least four other victims.

Some claimed they had their pants ripped off. A variety of objects were used in the attacks, including cellphones, scissors, a shoe and calculators.

Mrs Pilbrow said Hutt Valley High regretted the incidents. The school has come under fire for choosing to stand down six boys, rather than refer them to the board, and for neglecting to notify the police about the attacks. Police alerted the Education Ministry.

Acting principal Steve Chapman earlier said he made the decision to stand down the boys in association with Mrs Pilbrow.

On Thursday, Mr Chapman said he was unable to comment any further on the assaults.

Mrs Pilbrow said the school would write to parents this week to advise of a move toward restorative practices at the school. Deans and counsellors would be available to any pupil concerned for their, or their peers', safety.

The latest moves followed existing measures, such as mentoring programmes and a support network centre for children feeling isolated.

Mrs Pilbrow said bullying and other violence at the school were scrutinised in March 2007 and two teacher-only days were dedicated to ensuring the whole school had a focus on eliminating violence.

The Education Review Office visited the decile 9, 1800-pupil school in 2006 and specifically assessed the "emotional safety of pupils (including prevention of bullying and sexual harassment)". No issues relating to safety were identified.

Police are working closely with Youth Aid, Victim Support, medical experts, professional counsellors and Child, Youth and Family. Detective Sergeant Brendan Mears said rehabilitation of the offenders was a police priority.

Ministry publications show a pupil can be stood down if his or her bad behaviour or continual disobedience is a harmful or dangerous example to other pupils at the school, or if it is likely that the pupil, or others attending the school, will be seriously harmed if the pupil is not stood down.

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These guidelines are identical to those used to gauge whether the more serious punishment, suspension, is appropriate. A ministry spokesman said schools made judgment calls on what was appropriate in each case.

 

- The Dominion Post

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