Bullying inquiry to begin

by Kyle


An independent inquiry into bullying allegations at New Plymouth Boys’ High School will begin immediately.

Education consultant Lex Hamill is to meet the school’s board tonight to discuss a recent incident that left a Year 12 boarder with two black eyes, stitches, bruises and a painful jaw.

The inquiry will concentrate on the individual incident, but Mr Hamill and colleague Wayne Gribble are keen to hear from anyone who has experienced bullying at the school. They will be in New Plymouth for the rest of the week.

Mr Hamill said people with bullying complaints should ring and register their interest with New Plymouth Boys’ High School.

They would then make contact with those affected.

“We are going to look at the initial incident but if other matters arise we will deal with those,” he said.

“Other facts will not be ignored.”

The incident has sparked allegations of a bullying culture which has been ignored for decades at the 126-year-old college.

Stories from teachers and pupils involving intimidation, assaults, verbal taunts and an allegation involving a student being raped with a bottle have emerged after an initial story ran in the Taranaki Daily News at the weekend.

Yesterday more than a dozen callers phoned this paper – many supporting the school, but others with more stories of bullying.

Mr Hamill said though he was aware of the newspaper reports, he would be entering New Plymouth completely neutral. “Each school has a unique culture. I will reflect on what I see,” he said.

“You have people in every school with the potential to do these thing. It doesn’t have to follow it is endemic throughout the school.”

Mr Hamill was appointed yesterday to investigate the bullying incident by The New Zealand School Trustees Association after the school approached the organisation for help.

He is a former deputy principal of a Tauranga high school, and now works as a private consultant.

New Plymouth Boys’ High School will cover the cost of the inquiry and any ensuing reports will be owned by the school. It will make a decision about what steps to take next and whether the reports would be made public.

During the investigation Mr Hamill said he would be interviewing anyone involved in the recent bullying allegation and evaluating the schools handling of the event. “Did they show a duty of care? There are things they are meant to do,” he said.

Inquiries into the operation of schools were common though NZSTA president Lorraine Kerr said that in the last 20 years, this was the first of this nature she had been involved in.

Neither would discuss possible results of such an inquiry.

“I’m not going to pre-empt any outcomes. At the end of the day the board makes that decision. They’ve asked us for assistance and we are happy to do that,” Ms Kerr said.

“This is a high priority, we are working our way through it as we speak.”

A national investigation of schools’ anti-bullying policies is also to take place after calls from parents of bully victims in the Hutt Valley.