Stop the Hate: Kaitao Middle School tackles bullys

By Kristin Macfarlane

The Daily Post has launched a campaign to take a stand against bullying in our city. Stop The Hate will run over the next few weeks and will look at bullying, bullies and their victims. Today, we look at what is being done in Rotorua to combat bullying.

For years, Kaitao Middle School has been trying to cut bullying.

This year, they have strengthened their focus by continuing to educate their children about the impacts of bullying, encouraging them to speak out when it happens and actively spreading the message that bullying is not okay.

Students are getting behind ways to combat bullying, too. They are writing a song against bullying, making videos and one group of students has even organised a school mufti day to raise money for child abuse victims.

Ultimately, the school wants to become a "no bully school".

Principal Rory O'Rourke said it might not happen but at least they were trying. He said the school still had "a long way to go" in cutting bullying behaviour completely, but their efforts were working and helping to stop it.

He said he knew bullying in some form happened at all schools but by trying to build an empathy for victims through education they were reducing it.

Mr O'Rourke said the school was actively educating students about the ramifications of bullying and the devastating impact it could have on people's lives.

The school takes many anti-bullying actions through competitions, classes, assemblies, programmes and more.

Every Monday morning, a school assembly is held to promote the school values of compassion, honesty, respect and responsibility. At the assembly, Mr O'Rourke reads a story each week related to the value they emphasise that week as well as showing a YouTube clip related to one of the forms of bullying.

The school is also running a competition in which each class is writing an anti-bullying song - and the winner will make a music video for the song to be uploaded to video-sharing website YouTube. The competition ends next Friday with the winner being revealed at the following week's assembly.

"Our ultimate goal is to become a no bully school."

Mr O'Rourke said students knew about the importance of not bullying. He said some had even approached him asking to hold a mufti day to raise money to help stop bullying in the home. These students - including Te Aniana Hape, 13, and Courtnee Martin, 11 - approached Mr O'Rourke about the mufti day because they wanted to help those affected by bullying and physical abuse.

Mr O'Rourke said that because their school was decile two and in a fairly low socio-economic area, their children were very vulnerable. "We want them to speak up as well. The message is getting through."

Other ways of trying to stop bullying in the school included cellphone and tablet policies, a restorative justice programme where bullies meet their victims and each other's families and discuss the situations and feelings and more.

He said students were allowed cellphones at school but the school recorded all phone numbers to avoid text bullying. It also had policies on when students were allowed to use cellphones at school.

He said there were 220 children at the school with tablets and to ensure their safety from cyber bullying the school had a firewall to stop students downloading inappropriate material and internet sites were blocked. "We're not just sitting back letting these things happen," Mr O'Rourke said.

He said the school offered various programmes which had a focus on bullying, including the Roots of Empathy programme which they had been part of for the past four years. He said over that time they had noticed a change in the antisocial behaviour of their students. Roots of Empathy, which was introduced in Rotorua in 2010, is a classroom-based programme where a mother with her baby shows young children about caring for and nurturing infants, which in turn helps them learn about empathy.

The programme has been proved to reduce levels of aggression among school children, while raising emotional competence and increasing empathy.

A Rotorua Roots of Empathy mentor, Bridget Gifford, also contacted The Daily Post about the programme and how part of it involved a focus on bullying and child abuse.

"This programme runs in a class for a full year and covers themes on meeting the baby, crying, caring and planning, emotions, sleeping, safety, communication, who am I? Throughout the year a baby and its parents visit the class so the children can ask parents questions while seeing a healthy, loving attachment," she said.

To share a story about bullying, email or contact her on (07) 348 6199, ext 57072.

See for more, including a resource list of where to go for help.

Under many guises

What is bullying?

Bullying can be described as offensive, intensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour; an abuse of power that undermines, humiliates or injures the recipient.

Types of bullying:

Physical bullying

Physical violence, theft, destruction of property, expressing physical superiority, making threatening gestures, defacing property, pushing, shoving, taking small items from others, initiating fights, scratching, tripping up, assaulting, pinching, biting, pushing, hitting, defacing school work.

Verbal bullying

Threats, taunting, insults, name calling, teasing about clothes/looks/possessions, gossip, starting or spreading rumours, giving derogatory nicknames, giving orders, making harassing phone calls or text messages, making threats to secure silence from the victim.

Emotional/social bullying

Deliberate and sustained teasing, sexual harassment, racial harassment, public humiliation, dirty looks, holding nose or other insulting gestures, not including someone in your work group, playing mean tricks, taking friends, making things up about someone, insulting someone's family, insulting someone's intelligence or athletic ability, making someone look foolish, excluding someone from the group.

Cyber bullying:

Cyberbullying is bullying. It's using the internet, a mobile phone or other technology like a digital camera to hurt somebody or embarrass them.


Where to turn - organisations that can help you with bullying:

No Bully: 0800 NO BULLY (0800 66 28 55) or visit

Youthline: (0800) 37 66 33, email or visit

Kidsline: Call 0800 KIDSLINE (0800 543 754) between 4pm-6pm from Mon-Fri. Visit

What's Up: Telephone counselling for 5-18 year olds. Call (0800) 942 8787 Visit

Urge Whakamanawa: Visit

Netsafe provides cyber safety and security advice for New Zealanders. Visit for more information

You can also visit Rotorua's Citizens Advice Bureau on Haupapa St for information


- Rotorua Daily Post

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