Mum 'cyber-bullies' principal for pirate day

MARIKA HILL
Last updated 07:11 07/04/2013

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An Auckland primary school principal has complained of being cyber-bullied after she cancelled a "pirate day" at the school.

An irate parent blogger took to the internet to rant about Helen Varney, who was appointed principal of Target Road primary last year, accusing her of ruining the school.

But Varney says the anonymous blogger's onslaught amounts to cyber-bullying and she is refusing to budge.

The standoff shows that it's not just children being victimised by online bullying, with school staff becoming targets of threats, malicious gossip and smear campaigns.

Online abuse or threats could soon land offenders with a fine or prison sentence under new anti-cyber-bullying plans announced last week.

"Because it goes out on the internet it reaches more people than it would if they were gossiping in the car park," Varney said.

"I refuse to read it [the blog], just as I refuse to listen to gossip at the school gate."

The blog amounted to cyber-bullying, she said.

"What we tell kids is, if people don't front up to you, they don't matter.

"I'm not going to play with them. I've put my tennis racket down."

Other schools have also had issues with bloggers targeting staff, she said.

"It's someone having a voice.

"Have an opinion by all means, but be honest about it and put your name on it."

The blogger, who did not respond to a request for an interview, refers to herself as a "super mum" and alleges things have turned ugly at the primary school since Varney took over and cancelled "pirate day" where children dress up as pirates and spend a day of singing, dancing and waging battles.

The blogger said children, staff and parents were devastated by the cancellation of the event.

"Those who complained found themselves on the receiving end of the new principal's wrath," she wrote.

"Rumours were abound, staff were miserable, students were being affected, parents were being reported to child protection agencies. It was all starting to get rather ugly."

Varney laughed when told the blogger had complained of the cancellation of pirate day.

A teacher ran the event for a class, but pulled the pin on it last year when she couldn't link it to learning objectives, she said.

Secondary Principals' Association president Tom Parsons said it was only a matter of time before an anonymous online bully was unmasked.

"They're gutless and limited in intellect if they think they can do it and be anonymous.

"It's not anonymous.

"Sooner or later it comes out and now there will be a heavy penalty for this."

Cyber-bullies could be sent to jail for up to three years under government proposals aimed at protecting victims of online bullying.

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It would make it an offence to send messages and post material online that was grossly offensive, indecent, obscene, menacing or knowingly false.

- Sunday Star Times

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