Parents 'organised fights' to settle playground rows

By Kristin Edge -
Campus Cop Senior Constable Hank van Engelen said kids were posting videos of the best fights on the internet. File photo / Northern Advocate
Campus Cop Senior Constable Hank van Engelen said kids were posting videos of the best fights on the internet. File photo / Northern Advocate

Police are investigating claims parents have organised after-school fights between Northland teenagers to settle playground disputes.

The latest claim comes after a spike in the number of brawls at secondary schools in Whangarei.

That has been partly driven by a trend to capture the "best fight" on cellphone video and post it on the internet.

In the last month police have been notified of two fights organised by parents and caregivers of girls aged 13 and 14 in the Whangarei area as a way of sorting out differences.

The rise in fights has alarmed an experienced Whangarei police officer, who says technology is partly to blame, combined with a drop in the respect young people have for themselves and others.

Whangarei Police Campus Cop Senior Constable Hank van Engelen said schools had been telling police about the increase in violence but the latest trend was worrying.

"Kids are seeing who can get the best fight video and then put it up on the internet. A couple of parents have organised fights for their kids."

He was unsure why parents were organising the fights, but suggested they wanted a safe environment for their children to fight in.

"I know it seems a bit sick. I've heard of it happening a couple of times, but don't have enough evidence to prosecute the parents."

He understood in one case a female student had come home from school saying she wanted to fight another student. The parents had contacted each other and arranged the backyard scrap.

Mr van Engelen said the brawls were fist fights and injuries included black eyes and cut lips.

He said the schools were doing everything they could by standing down those involved in fights or putting them before the school board.

"It's not the schools' responsibility to solve a social problem that is obviously happening. It seems fighting at school and after is socially acceptable."

He said attitudes of children had changed since he took up the role of Campus Cop in 1999.

"Now they have no respect for others and don't seem to have good life values, which is sad."

He said fights were sparked by typical teenage issues like girlfriends and boyfriends, a dislike of each other and youth gang rivalry.

"It seems to be they don't have much respect or morals these days. They are only concerned about themselves."

Secretary of the Northland Secondary Schools Principals' Association Grant Burns said he was not aware of fights being organised by parents.

He was appalled by the suggestion.

"I think it's a really sad reflection on a very small number of people in our community that would stoop to that level," Mr Burns, principal of Tauraroa Area School, said.

With large numbers of teenagers on school grounds there was bound to be tension and fights, but for a majority of the time schools provided safe and secure environments.

"Schools only have children for 30 hours out of 168 a week. You have to wonder what kind of homes they are coming from if parents are organising fights."

There was nothing positive that would come from solving issues by fighting, he said.

"These parents need to set an example not encouraging violence."

Whangarei Boys' High School Headmaster Al Kirk said he was not aware of an increase in fights at the school and had no knowledge of fights organised by parents.

"It's atrocious and pathetic for parents to think this is a way that can resolve issues," he said.

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