Fairfield College Parents Angry At School Bullying

Yesterday we talked about knife incidents at Fairfield College and about violence in New Zealand’s school, saying that a breakdown in breakdown in family life and support at home for young people, generations of parents with no parenting skills to pass on, poverty, widespread drug and alcohol abuse, a culture of brutality and mental health issues are all factors influencing school children today.

Today concerned parents have spoken out about the bullying at Fairfield College. In reality many parents can do little other than remove their children from the school to protect them as the school itself doesn’t seem to have the tools to manage the problem effectively: (source)

“…angry Fairfield College parents Kim Gardner and Heath Te Anga have joined other parents in claiming that repeated bullying of students, and a lack of action by the school to prevent it, have forced their children from the school.

Ms Gardner’s son, whose name she didn’t want used, has spent the last six weeks away from Fairfield College after a fight with another student in May which she said resulted from continued bullying. She said she had continually approached the school, but had been offered little support, while one of her son’s bullies remained at the school.

Ms Gardner said her son, who is in year 11, regularly attended classes before the bullying began, and now deliberately wags to avoid bullying.

Mr Te Anga’s year 10 daughter was beaten up in November last year and again in February this year. She is now enrolled at another school.

He said he empathised with Tina Hudgens and Brigitte Crause, who have also voiced their concerns about bullying at the school. “We know the feeling. It feels like we’re being swept under the carpet,” he said,

You get one story from your daughter and another one from the school.”

Fairfield College commissioner Dennis Finn was unavailable for comment on Tuesday’s incident but earlier this week said the school was acting appropriately with its students and had a robust process to deal with bullying.

Mr Finn said the main student who was bullying Ms Gardner’s son had left the school and another was being dealt with.

“The school has a very robust supportive process to discuss issues around bullying,” he said.

“We are conscious bullying can be an issue from time to time but considerable work has been done with a good number of students and parents and that continues.”

Mr Finn, who said Ms Gardner’s son had a history of absenteeism, was surprised by Mr Te Anga’s comments. “If there’s a brush off to anyone, I am not aware of it.”

We wonder just how robust that process is, the number of knife incidents and assaults suggest that this school is in crisis. It’s not enough to “discuss issues around bullying” firm and decisive action needs to be taken, including having a zero tolerance to intimidation in all its forms and excluding bullies from school.

Is it any wonder that New Zealand has such a terrible reputation for bullying in its schools if this is school is the norm?

Also in the Hamilton news – A  teenager who stabbed to death another youth during a street fight between rival youth gangs in Hamilton last year has walked free. Jurors were told the defendant was a Crips gang associate, his younger brother, and two others  were confronted by Bloods gang members. link

For background see:

Migrants’ Tales – “A better life for the kids” One family’s battle against school bullying

“School Bullying Reflects `Culture Of Brutality’”

“Kiwis worst in world for bullying”

Racial bullying was a factor in Hamilton Girls’ High School knife incident

“Bullying to blame” for Te Puke teacher stabbing

Wikipedia entry for Fairfield College

2007-2009 disruptions

“The school’s NCEA Level 1 results improved in 2007 to a 51 percent pass rate but declined to 29 percent in 2008. Former board members Michael Crawford and Winston Pinkerton said this occurred because of “a campaign, by some teachers resistant to change, to undermine the authority and leadership of the principal and the board” which “impacted on teaching and learning in 2008.”They said some department heads and others did this when realising their performances would be properly appraised and they would be held accountable for student academic results. “Because of this they began a campaign to undermine the school board and principal, including character assassination of the principal, bullying of other staff and misinformation to media and members of the school community.”

In the same article, Fairfield PPTA spokesperson Jennifer Hamilton said she and many of her colleagues were hurt by the comments, and that management of Fairfield staff by the PPTA has been restrained and professional.

In 2008 the PPTA advised the MOE that despite the best efforts of the local and regional PPTA to solve the mounting problems, issues were becoming more serious. A MOE appointed negotiator, John Carlyon, was appointed in Term 4 2008 to establish a working party to address problems at the college. During Term 1 2009 there was continued disquiet among some staff, students and parents.

Near the end of Term 1 some 10 to 12 percent of pupils went on strike to support teaching staff. The strike received widespread media coverage, and the Waikato Times reported it had seldom received so many complaints, 90 percent in support of staff. The school board resigned.

In 2009 management of the school’s childcare centre was taken over by the Kindergarten Association of NZ to comply with MOE requirements.

Fairfield College has signed up to the Te Kotahi tanga programme intended to improve Maori students academic performance. The 9 year old programme seeks to try and change how teachers teach.”