Ombudsman canes the school that surrendered its authority to a gang of six bullies

Here's how to restore authority to schools.

It looks like wimpy staff at Hutt Valley High School let six bullying brats run the show a few years back and terrorise other kids.

An Ombudsmen’s Office report – Stuff says todayreveals “chilling details of systemic violence at the school, intimidation and abuse”.

It also dossiers a history of failure to punish culprits or acknowledge the seriousness of their crimes.

Alf is tempted to wonder how many staff could be mustered to combat the trouble generated by – how many louts were running amok?

Oh, yes. Six.

And if the staff were losing the battle, what stopped them dialling 111???

We may muse on these matters on the strength of the aforementioned Ombudsman’s Office report, that says pupils at the school were subjected to torture, extreme violence and sexual abuse.

But “school authorities” (we are short on names, alas) failed to protect victims, alert parents or report numerous attacks to police.

They aren’t alone in copping flak from the Ombudsman.

He has upheld a complaint against the Education Review Office that it failed to properly assess school safety.

And (here comes a name) he upheld a complaint against Child, Youth and Family for failing to manage a conflict of interest by one of its staff, Susan Pilbrow, who was also the school’s board chairwoman.

The report harks back to a time in late 2007 when a gang of six teens terrorised classmates, chasing younger boys around the school, dragging them to the ground to remove their pants then violating them with a screwdriver, scissors, branches, pens, pencils and drills.

David McGee, the Chief Ombudsman, pulls no punches (unlike the school management).

Tabling his report in Parliament yesterday, he described the attacks as “a pattern of repeated, premeditated, systematic assaults”.

And he slated the school’s response, inadequate discipline policies and failure to implement Education Ministry child abuse policies.

In its account of the report’s contents, the Dom-Post tells us the premeditated attacks were committed on year 9 boys during lunchtimes.

There was little teacher supervision because some staff were too scared to carry out duties “for fear of their own safety”, the report says.

So what did the school authorities do?

The important thing – first – is to learn what they did not do (something that makes Alf wonder about their fitness to be running a school).

When the offending was identified, the 1700-pupil co-ed state school did not alert victims’ parents, police or Child, Youth and Family.

It instead chose to stand down the culprits for a few days.

Incensed parents eventually learned of the attacks, it seems, and complained (somewhat curiously) to the Human Rights Commission and Ombudsmen’s Office.

And now we have the report.

The findings are deeply troubling.

One of the nine victims had holes ripped in his trousers during an assault. Another was kicked in the face when he refused to kiss his attackers’ shoes after being sexually violated.

The decile 8 school played down the attacks, saying, “It wasn’t an assault where somebody had blood spilt” and describing the incidents as “minor”.

McGee is damned right when he says that – even if we were to disregard the most serious allegations of direct penetrative assault, the systematic pack assaults with sharp objects and surrounding threats and intimidation – suspension of the perpetrators seemed to have been justified as a minimum.

Here’s what happened under namby-pamy management –

* Antisocial children were retained in the school;

* Serious violence and sexual assaults went unreported to government agencies.

* The school took it upon itself to interpret the results of a victim’s medical examination in favour of his perpetrators.

Dunno if school bosses have regained the authority they surrendered back then, but the report says they have been proactive in addressing bullying and violence.

Recently appointed school principal Ross Sinclair has issued a full apology for the school’s actions.

More disturbing details can be found in the full report from the Ombudsman’s Office.

One Response to Ombudsman canes the school that surrendered its authority to a gang of six bullies

  1. Cheri says:

    I am AMAZED that none of the parents laid police complaints. For goodness sake, this is a criminal matter – no matter what the age of the children involved. It is illegal to assault or sexually violate another person. The reaction from the school does NOT surprise me at all. Any school’s first priority always seems to be protecting their image and reputation. Common parents, wise up here. Criminal acts = police complaint and charges.

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