Howick College – Bullying Allegations Continue – updated

Yesterday we blogged about year 9 student, Michaela Blaauw,  whom is about to go to live with her grandparents in Kwa Zulu Natal to escape bullying at Howick College, a decile 10 school in Auckland.

Michaela and her family emigrated from South Africa about 5 years ago.

Following De Wet Blaauw’s meeting with the school later on Monday he reportedly told the Herald that the school “didn’t think it had a problem and that this was an isolated incident.”

Today Elizabeth Binning, writing for the NZ Herald – “School in denial over bullying : father” –  reported that the newspaper had received messages about the school from its readers which included

  • A mother of a year 10 boy that was beaten by five larger boys, one of whom hit him so hard on the back of his head that he broke the bones in his hand. She also stated that one of the bullies had intimidated her whilst she waited for her son after school
  • A mother of whose daughter left the school in 2008 after enduring “a traumatic year”. She alleges that she was told she may as well take daughter out of the school as there was “nothing they could do” – “The bullying was too widespread and it would have been too difficult to contain it.”

read her full report here

Is the school in denial, or does its definition of bullying not agree with that of the Blaauw family?

Is bullying is so widespread has it become part of the culture of this school and therefore almost impossible to control? If so perhaps it is easier to pretend it doesn’t exist, to turn a blind eye to it – ultimately the  kids who aren’t able to cope with it will be removed, or leave.

In our blog yesterday we spoke of  Ray Lewis, a senior economics teacher at this school who took a case to the Employment Relations Authority after he was sacked in April 2008.

He claimed he was repeatedly bullied by other staff. To start with his claim was dismissed but during a successful appeal in April 2010 it emerged that there was more to his story.

Mr Lewis was a whistleblower who had raised concerns over numerous incidents. He believed he was targeted after he complained to the Prime Minister and other officials.

Among his concerns were the school’s responsibilities for the death of a 17 year old student, Ross Kimpton,  during a rugby tour, who fell from a hotel window in London after he’d been drinking. Mr Lewis was also said to have had worries about NCEA criteria.

The NZ Herald obtained a report into Ross Kimpton’s death using the Official Secrets Act and said that it

“revealed the board of trustees had concerns about the team drinking and about what happened after Ross’s death.”

The article went on to state

“Howick College’s director of sport pulled out of the ill-fated rugby tour to the UK and Ireland because he “feared something could happen”.

Speaking for the first time about the incident, Chris Hull said everyone involved in the tour was still deeply affected by the death of Ross Kimpton.

Hull had fundraised endlessly for the trip but withdrew after becoming concerned about the way the tour was going to be run.

He told school management about rumours the students were “going to get on the ‘large’ … as soon as they got there” and later heard they consumed “vast amounts of alcohol” on the tour.

He said he respected the boys on the tour “but everyone knew they would drink on Saturday nights”.

After Kimpton’s death, the school placed a cloak of secrecy over the incident, said Hull.

“It was all swept under the carpet,” he said. ” Read the full report HERE on the Herald’s website.

Update

The Blaauw’s story was briefly covered on Kiwiblog and generated a good number of responses with a heated discussion on the relative merits of smacking and not smacking children.

Among the comments was the following allegation

“# Fale Andrew Lesa (378) Says:
November 6th, 2010 at 1:45 pm

I’ve been told via the grapevine that some students are being encouraged to write into the NZ Herald to confirm that bullying is not an issue within the school.

How desperate is this maneuver and what do they hope to achieve by it?

Bullying is an issue for almost every public school in the country, and most of it does not occur in front of the cinema screen for the world to see. It occurs behind the scenes, often with very little coverage from the “outside world”.

How reliable this report is is anyone’s guess, to date no such letters have appeared in the on-line editions of The Herald.

To read about more cases of bullying, NZ’s appalling record of school bullying /violence and “significant human rights issues in its schools” click here :Howick schoolgirl returns to South Africa to escape bullies.

It’s time to get this issue out into the open, time for schools to enforce zero tolerance anti-bullying policies and time for victims to be encouraged to apply  for protection orders against the abusers. School should be a safe, nurturing place for all children – where they can feel hope for the future.

Also read NZ’s Next Top Model bullied at school but at least she’s not in prison / pregnant

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7 thoughts on “Howick College – Bullying Allegations Continue – updated

  1. I went to that horrible school. I was bullied. Brought it up with senior teachers and they seemed to laugh at me.

    Really sad bunch at that school. Seems to be a typical bogan paradise. Most of the girls are pregnant and the guys are losers

  2. The school minimises it to a great extent. I have seen it in action. I have found that after a few years of “nothing being done about it”, my child has refused to name names as well, though he comes home with specific actions and specific comments made by certain other children (whom he used to name, but no longer). He came to the conclusion that being advocated for by his mother only resulted in more alienation for him. There seems to be this idea that bullies are tortured souls who should not be confronted because they are dealing with some sh*te in their lives, or that anyone who complains is half likely to be lying for the attention, or troubled themselves, to be making such a thing up. The bullies learn to bully in such a way as to work with this, and very early in their lives become good at the “leaving no marks” type of abuse. The entire society is this way. I think it is because Kiwis prefer to avoid conflict, and have not learned to communicate constructively when attempting to communicate negative things. There is a need to always be positive, no matter what, even if negative things need addressing.

    I do think that the requirement to put on a unified front tends to have a squelching effect on people who want to change the way matters are dealt with on a systems level. Here is what the school authorities want – for no one to be rocking any boats. For no one to be saying “there is a bullying problem at your school”. It’s all about saving face.

  3. I think adults should be ashamed of themselves and their kids that bullied i was bullied to the worst extent at school and never fought back. I am a mother now myself and i am conditioning my child to stand up for herself and if necessary fight back if it comes down to it. these bullies have no right to do what they do but yet the principals of these schools keep these bullies on instead of taking them out of class and dealing with the issues at hand. I dont think people really understand the effects of bullying untill a child ends up in hospital or worse hanging from the ceiling in the school toilets. Come on people these are our kids being degraded and stripped of life and personality by these vicious young people.
    Dont just sit there do something about it. You’ll regret it if you dont, for your childrens sake as much as your own.

    • So what do you do when the bullies are your co-workers, superiors or civil servants (including police) or educators(corrupt lecturers at university)?

  4. As a Howick resident and father of pupils at Howick College, I detest the thought of bullying there, or in fact, anywhere. Sadly, it is a fact of life, that “bullying” in some shape or form, can exist anywhere. But it will only continue to exist if we all let it, and that includes Michaela Blaauw, because nowhere have I seen any confirmation that she has identified those who bullied her. Has she in fact done so? If so, then there would be no excuse for the school to not take that up with the perpetrator. But if she hasn’t, then why doesn’t she do her bit to clean things up? Or is there another side to the story that we are not hearing? Did she provoke the foot-tripping as a retaliation to something she did or said, and is THAT what her ‘bully’ asked her to apologise for? The school can only go so far.

    On the face of it, the case of the year 10 student doesn’t auger well, but I as a distant by-stander am loathe to judge without knowing all the facts – ie did the younger boy provoke a response in some way? (but I have to acknowledge the sweet taste of some poetic justice in the assailant breaking his hand).

    As for ‘old’ cases (ie pre-2010’s new BOT & new Principal) it needs to be acknowledged by this blog-site that the Education Ministry recognised that there were problems in the latter years of the tenure of the previous Principal and Board of Trustees, and intervened in June 2090 with an Education Review Office Advisor. http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/eastern-courier/2410399/School-trustees-under-scrutiny

    That intervention was lifted in July of this year (2010) http://www.times.co.nz/cms/news/2010/07/printer_college_out_of_intervention.php
    following a favourable report by the Advisor, so I for one am prepared to give the new Principal & his team, the chance to do their job. I don’t expect them to be able to prevent every incident, but the judgement should be made on how they deal with them, in the context of each case.

    • well have you ever thought of the fact that the bullies threatened to kill her siblings and burn their house down and make sure the family was inside maybe you yourself are a spineless bully you should be ashamed of yourself for promoting bullying it’s people like you that make me wonder how has humanity got this far if i were you i would shut up or fk up

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