Haeata Community College hell or a haven?
A 14-year-old tooka knife to school every day out of fear of attack, a former parent of Haeata Community College says.
More families have come forward about violent experiences and "chaos" that convinced them to withdraw their children since Stuff reported Haeata was losing students to neighbouring schools last week.
Others have come to Haeata's defence, saying "prejudice" against Aranui was masking the school's successes. These parents said their children were more engaged and learning well at the new school.
Principal Andy Kai Fong said fighting "occurs here occasionally" and families were always contacted if there were any issues at school.
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He said Haeata had a diverse student population, many from disadvantaged backgrounds, who had struggled to engage in school post-earthquake.
Haeata opened this year with about 950 students. It was formed from the closure of four schools in Christchurch's eastern suburbs; Aranui High plus Aranui, Avondale and Wainoni primary schools.
Board chairwoman Cheryl Doig said parents did not always raise issues with the school or its board of trustees: "As far as I'm concerned it's hearsay unless they come with a complaint."
"It would be great if we were perfect on day one; we acknowledge we're not, but the changes in my view are phenomenal ... we have high expectations and [student] behaviour is changing."
One man removed his 15-year-old son from Haeata two weeks ago, "livid" with the school's response to violence.
He discovered a video of his son in a fight, posted on Facebook by another student, a week after it occurred. He said staff knew of the fight but did not tell him.
"Whether they knew about the video or not, a week beforehand there was a fighting incident involving our son. We should have been informed."
He asked Kai Fong to facilitate a meeting with parents of the students involved but was told other families "weren't interested".
Kai Fong said staff "got to the bottom of it", but the family withdrew their son before any meeting could occur.
The father said his son did well at Aranui High, but had been depressed since attending Haeata. He was not well enough to enrol in another school.
Another parent removed her year 9 son to Linwood College after he started taking knives to school to protect himself.
"He was scared at lunchtime, he was really afraid of all the fighting there. I took it [the knife] out of his bag and he would come back with the same thing the next day.
"No kid should have to go in fear every day to school."
She was concerned by the apparent influence of gang culture on the students. "All I saw every day was [kids calling themselves] Crips and Bloods and white supremacists."
Kai Fong said he was not aware of any students bringing weapons to school, "and certainly not for that reason".
A third parent's 10-year-old daughter had been "pulled into" five-on-one fights several times a week, she said.
"There are other girls that have sisters in the senior area and they will try involve them [in fights]. My older daughter turned into a bully because she thought it was the only way she was going to survive.
"I wanted to stick with the school and see if they could make it work but I had to take my girls out."
They were now enrolled at Rawhiti School.
A parent of three children at Haeata didn't disagree the school had "teething problems" but was "disappointed to see what seems to be a lot of snobbery".
Her 13, 16 and 18-year-olds previously went to Aranui High and "I already had to deal with a lot of prejudice from other people," she said.
"It's been really messy for the kids; they have been quite unsettled for the last few years. Now they're learning, they're engaged – I'm really glad we have Haeata."
Another parent said fighting was common at all schools, including her six and seven-year-olds' former school, Avondale Primary. Her children's reading and mathematics improved at Haeata.
"The hardest thing for me was that I didn't like the change," the mother said.
"I didn't like that it was forced upon me, but kids don't think like that."
Parents have not been named to protect their children's privacy.