STRAIGHT TALK: Shocking brutality just under the surface

By Richard Moore

WHAT a fabulous Indian summer we are having. It's mid-May and I'm sitting outside in shirt sleeves tapping away on the laptop in pleasant sunshine.
The sky is blue and clear, at the beach the water sparkles, our streets are looking clean and tidy and everyone seems to be getting on with their lives as they should.
But scratch the veneer in our fair region and we see things that really shouldn't be happening in a decent society.
We have a Mount schoolboy set upon by three men late on Friday night in the Bayfair carpark. He wasn't doing anything to them, they wanted trouble - presumably to forget about their awful scummy lives through hurting someone else - and so attacked him.
The youth suffered painful facial injuries and said he was shocked that an attack would happen at Bayfair.
Then down the coast  we have the outrage of an adult assaulting a 4-year-old in a Whakatane park - just because he happened to be dressed in a red shirt.
Was the brute insane? No, it seems he took it upon himself to be outraged that a child in a Black Power area (blue identifiers) should be wearing the colour associated with the rival Mongrel Mob (red).
Now apparently mothers in that part of Whakatane don't dress their kids in red because they fear gang reprisals.
And there is a report of an 80-year-old woman being abused for wearing a red jersey in downtown Whakatane.
Surely police in the town have to get off their backsides and deal with this outrageous situation. No matter the cost they must flood this dubious area of the Bay with officers and crack down on any form of antisocial behaviour.
Anyone seen in gang colours should be given a shakedown and any illegalities should mean an instant trip to the police station with charges laid.
It sounds to me that the local council needs to consider action along the lines of Wanganui and ban gang patches and insignia from its boundaries.
Next up in our little peek into the underbelly of the Bay is probably the worst incident in recent memory - the stabbing of teacher Steve Hose in his classroom.
That sent shock waves around the country and all eyes focused on the kiwifruit capital just a few kilometres down State Highway 2.
The fact a child had a knife at school was exceedingly worrying and we do need to look at tighter security to protect our children, but was it a surprise?
Not really.

Bullying in our schools is endemic. It happens in every primary school and just keeps getting worse as you go up the grades. Kids know what goes on at their schools. Parents know it too. They hear tales of the drug smoking and the pack mentality of dysfunctional brutes bashing other students for no more than looking at them, or just for their appearance.
As  parents we are often brushed off by "We have a zero tolerance towards bullying" but that means diddly-squat.  There was a case  where after a quite serious incident that led to injuries where a child couldn't attend school for a month the principal laid the blame of restarted bullying at the feet of a parent!
I like the recently mooted idea of schools being sued for not protecting our children - it would mean they would be forced to take the issue seriously.
Currently the onus is on the victim to modify their behaviour to avoid being picked on.
I reckon they should be able to defend themselves against their tormentors - that is fight back - without fear of being suspended. Being punished for exercising the right of self-defence sends all the wrong signals to both victim and bully. The latter feels they can get away with it and the former's feelings of frustration and helplessness becomes more desperate to the point of making silly decisions - like taking a weapon to school.

Here's an interesting  factoid from the mean world of prisons and how keeping people from breaking out is easier than stopping people taking things in.
Officials are celebrating that last year only 10.5 per cent of drug tests on NZ prisoners were returned positive. They were happy that's the lowest it has been since 1998. Makes you wonder what happens in a bad year doesn't it?

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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