Human Rights Commission to look at bullying policies

The Human Rights Commission is to investigate schools' anti-bullying policies to see whether children's rights to safety are being protected.

The move follows calls for a national inquiry by parents of bullying victims at Hutt Valley High School. The investigation is linked to a study by the children's commissioner into pupil safety and school violence.

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan agreed to analyse children's human rights concerns after meeting Hutt Valley parents. Her report will focus on "the right to safety and security of the person, the right to education and the rights of victims".

It will consider how human rights are addressed by schools' anti-bullying policies and make recommendations in situations in which policies are not protecting children.

The Government unveiled anti-bullying initiatives this year after a spate of school violence.

Documents issued under the Official Information Act show Education Minister Chris Carter called for urgent action amid fears that schools were not treating bullying as a priority.

Last December nine Hutt Valley High School boys were dragged to the ground and violated by a pack of six classmates.

The victims' parents wrote to the Human Rights Commission alleging a "systematic failure" by state agencies responsible for protecting children. They asked for a national inquiry into violence and human rights abuses in schools.

The commission has agreed to assist Children's Commissioner Cindy Kiro's school safety investigation, which is due to be issued in February.

The Hutt Valley parents' spokesman welcomed the investigations, saying playground violence was "a much broader issue than one school ... We're talking about child abuse".

Dr Kiro said children and young people had the same rights as adults, "but as a vulnerable population group, have the added need for protection and promotion of their rights".

Her investigation into the nature and extent of violence and bullying in schools would consider human rights outlined in United Nations conventions and New Zealand law.

The Dominion Post