Editorial: Police need to handle bullies

By Dylan Thorne


Tauranga Community Constable Matt Elliott raises a good point in relation to bullying.

He advises parents to contact the police if their child is being bullied or has been assaulted - even if it has occurred on school grounds.

He's right; an assault is an assault regardless of the ages of the victim or the offender or where the attack took place.

Of course, there are grey areas here. A schoolyard scrap involving primary-aged children or a fight involving two secondary school students, equally at fault, is, in my view, different to an unprovoked attack or a bullying-related assault.

Today the Bay of Plenty Times reports the plight of a Tauranga Girls' College pupil who has been attacked at school three times during the past three years, each time by a different attacker.

In one particularly vicious assault, the teenager was kicked to the ground and sustained a lingering back injury.

The teenager says she has also been bullied on social networking sites, through her cellphone or indirectly through rumours.

"I've been told to go die in a hole ... it's horrible," she says.

It's disturbing stuff and any parent would be horrified if their child was the target of such bullying behaviour. If an adult was subject to the same attack then a complaint to police would appear to be the logical thing to do.

But, if this case involves a school pupil and the attack occurred on school grounds, is there a perception that it should be dealt with in-house?

Understandably, the mother of the Tauranga Girls' College pupil, is unhappy with the situation and, while acknowledging that the school has taken action against the attacker, she maintains that a harder line needs to be taken.

Tauranga Girls' College principal Pauline Cowens says the school has a zero tolerance policy on violence and "an effective discipline policy", which included restorative practices, mediation and peer support.

Another principal, Otumoetai College's Dave Randell, says schools are put in a difficult position to suspend troubled students or to keep them in school where they continued to disrupt others. He points out that if students were stood down for three days then they usually came back to school unrepentant.

If the police are called in when these incidents occurred, it may make a schoolyard bully think twice about their behaviour.

A hard word from a police officer can be a very different thing from a stern talk from a teacher and the prospect of standing in a court dock is far more intimidating than being sent home for a few days.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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