Morrinsville protesters stand ground
The dozens of protesters outside Morrinsville College yesterday had the Christchurch quake on their minds, but they felt their fight to get three bullies expelled from the school was too important to postpone.
Organiser Leah Eagle said she used Facebook to gauge public feeling about postponing the protest, but there was unanimous support to go ahead.
"It's not as devastating as what's happening in Christchurch, but it's still important – this is for our kids' safety."
The protest was aimed at getting three female students, who gave another student a brain injury when they attacked her in a girls' toilet, expelled.
The 200-odd protesters – made up of former and current pupils and parents – also called for the resignation of the principal, John Inger, and the school's board of trustees.
As an even greater number of students swelled out of their classrooms for lunch and stood inside the school grounds watching, yelling began from non-protesters. They were soon drowned out by the protesters' chants.
Male students inside the school grounds could be seen beating their chests in a challenge and several pieces of fruit were hurled at the protesters.
Two security guards hired by the school, as well as police and teachers, quickly moved the students deeper into the school grounds – standing in a line to prevent them moving forward again.
Year 10 student Briar Cogswell was one of about 50 students who risked the threat of a detention to join the protest during class time.
Briar said she has only moved to Morrinsville College this year because she was the victim of a bullying attack at Te Aroha College last year. She thought the punishment received by the Morrinsville girls was inadequate.
"She [the girl who bullied Briar] got people to lure me into the toilet. She cracked my head open and gave me a black eye. St John had to come."
Briar said the student who attacked her was "suspended for three months and got 50 hours of community service" through the legal system.
"I definitely thought they (the Morrinsville girls) would get the same punishment ... my advice would be to get them out of the school for good."
Mrs Eagle, a former pupil of the school, was motivated to help organise the protest because she had memories of being bullied at the school herself.
"We've just got to make a stand before someone actually gets killed – it's not that far off from that."
Police spokesman Andrew McAlley said four or five police were at the scene to uphold the protesters' right to freedom of speech.
The Times was prevented from going to the school office to speak with Mr Inger. The school later said Mr Inger had no comment beyond a press release given to media at the protest.
In the release, board of trustees chairman Rick Johnson and said the school had managed the bullying situation "extremely well".
"The school, through the principal, has responded appropriately and responsibly in dealing with these matters. There can be no turning back."