Teen victims told to stay home from Manurewa High School as 'safety cannot be guaranteed'

By Sarah Harris

A teen couple say they have been forced to stay at home after their school said it could not ensure their safety from a mob of students who allegedly attacked them.

Police and the school are both investigating the incident, and a legal expert said the couple's right to an education could be breached.

Three students were stood down after the alleged beating, which saw Manurewa High School students Dylyn Martin, 15, and her boyfriend battered and bruised.

The gang of male students came at the couple like "a pack of dogs", Dylyn's dad Kirk Martin told the Herald.

Dylyn and her boyfriend, who doesn't want to be named, said they were chatting outside their classroom at lunchtime on March 7, when she looked up to see a group of boys start to attack her boyfriend.

Dylyn, who says she has never been in a fight before, stepped in and "decided to cover him".

"I was really scared," she said. "A lot of them did punch me ... There were too many boys to count."

"[Afterwards] I really couldn't move. I was just too sore to move."

Her father said: "Can you imagine a pack of dogs running at you and attacking you? This is what it was like to her."

Both Dylyn and her boyfriend woke the next day to bruised faces and backs, and her boyfriend had a headache and couldn't walk straight, she said.

The students who were stood down have since returned to school.

However, Dylyn and her boyfriend have not been back to school since and she claimed the school told her it could not ensure their safety.

She said she's catching up schoolwork from photos of worksheets texted to her by her friends.

Dylyn said it was unfair the boys responsible are free to go to school.

"I don't want to go back until they've gone. I don't want to have to constantly look over my shoulder in case they do it again ... I'm too afraid," she said.

"I'm deprived of my education while they're still allowed at school."

Kirk Martin said his daughter was in tears when the deputy principal told them at a meeting that the boys were still at school and her safety could not be promised.

"We asked her 'can you guarantee our daughter's safety?'. She just said straight up 'no'," he said.

"Dylyn's angry because she's losing out on her education. That's one thing she does love. We do what we can do to put them through school so they can do better than I'm doing."

He added: "We're not too happy with the school."

Manurewa High School principal Pete Jones said the family agreed to stay off school while the investigation continued and an "appropriate safety plan" was made.

Jones suspected that the deputy principal's comment where she allegedly said she could not guarantee Dylyn's safety had been taken out of context.

"Whilst the school investigation is in process the family were also advised last week they could contact the police. The police have contacted the school and up to date with our process and are following their own processes."

A number of senior students supported staff to calm the fight and move spectators away, Jones said.

Katrina Casey, head of sector enablement and support at the Ministry of Education, said Manurewa High School had notified the ministry about the incident, and everything the ministry had seen so far indicated the school was treating the matter appropriately.

"We understand that the school is working closely with Dylyn Martin and her family to support her safe return. It is important that she knows she is safe and supported," she said.

"We have offered support for both the school and students as needed."

Community lawyer Kate Scarlet said the school is in a tricky situation as it deals with competing laws.

The school needs to provide a safe physical and emotional environment for students and ensure the school is free of risk to staff and students, she said.

There is also a right to education which applies to both the students who attacked and the ones who were attacked, she said. The only lawful way to keep a child home from school was to stand them down, suspend them or keep them away due to a contagious sickness, she said.

"Because they've asked [the victims] to stay home outside of that, that's a breach to the right to education.

"This is quite complicated for the school. There's no clear way through for them.

"It's going to be very much an individual approach but I would hope they will find a way to respect both students' rights to education."

Inspector Dave Glossop confirmed that police received a complaint on March 14 in relation to this alleged assault.

Police inquiries are ongoing, he said.

- NZ Herald

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