Parents need to trust schools to deal with complex issue of bullying, principals say
Canterbury primary school principals say they have sympathy for the school targeted by a father fed-up with its handling of his daughter's bullying.
The Christchurch father stood outside Waimairi School on Wednesday morning with a large sign to protest its handling of the repeated bullying of his 9-year-old daughter over 18 months.
The man, who cannot be named without identifying his daughter, was dissatisfied with Waimairi School's response after his daughter was repeatedly kicked, punched, bitten and choked by other students over 18 months.
Halswell School principal Bruce Topham said he felt "deeply sad" for Waimairi School as bullying was a complex issue.
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"It could have been any of us on a bad day."
Just because bullying had not stopped did not mean there were no efforts to stop it, he said. Most schools had restorative justice-style meetings between bullies and victims so it could be treated as a learning experience.
He understood how it felt to be a parent in that situation.
"I can easily put my own parent's hat on from when my kids were victims of bullying. There is a kind of helplessness about it.
"They have to trust their school and the school has to demonstrate that trust."
Lincoln Primary School principal Vivienne Butcher said most schools acted quickly when they became aware of bullying.
"No school is going to reward bullying. There are times when we may be unaware of an incident but there are very few schools, once they are made aware, that wouldn't act quickly and investigate," she said.
There were times where restorative justice-type meetings were effective, but they had to be sure the child was genuine.
The father of the bullied 9-year-old girl removed the 1.8-metre sign on Wednesday evening, but on Thursday said he anticipated putting it back to protest the physical assaults and humiliation his 9-year-old daughter endured.
One email from the school's lawyer, David Beck, to the father's lawyer, read: "Your client has turned up outside school with a sign causing a nuisance [and] has been on to The Press – if you can counsel him to desist further it would help."
The father said his daughter spent multiple lunchtimes a week in restorative justice-style meetings with her bullies months after he asked them to stop.
He considered taking his daughter out of the school, but her mother did not want to.
Waimairi School board of trustees chairman Cory Bedford said the father was yet to lodge a formal complaint with the board.
He said the school was investigating the father's claims, but declined to comment further, citing the child's privacy.
Most parents spoken to on Thursday morning supported Waimairi School and principal Mike Anderson.
"I've never met a principal who is more passionate in his stance against bullying," one mother said.
Another parent said when her children had issues in the past, they were dealt with quickly.