A Carterton mother is warning of the dangers of bullying after her son, 11, tried to strangle himself with a skipping rope to end years of torment over a disfiguring affliction.
Cries of "don't do it, don't do it, we're here for you" had stopped Raybane Hume-Kinzett as he walked toward a deserted stretch of playing fields at the back of Carterton School, with the rope circled tightly about his neck and tears streaming down his face.
His mother Sharlee Hume said shocked classmates had wrestled the rope from her son, who suffers from acute and chronic eczema and, at 1.56m-tall, weighs 72kg. A teacher was told of the incident that had played out at the school on March 21 and Raybane was sent back to class.
Raybane, described by teachers as quiet, kind and caring, had in his own words become "angry and confused" after about half a dozen classmates surrounded him in the playground and harangued him about his eczema and size. Ms Hume first learnt of the incident when a school staff member called her at work to say her son had collapsed after his return to class. He was unresponsive and was taken by ambulance to Carterton Medical Centre.
"Raybane was still crying and trembling when I got there. My heart just sank," Ms Hume said.
"He really is such a caring and gentle boy, who gets on well with other kids. He has lashed out at bullies before and, because of his size, has had to learn to control his temper. But I believe he turned all his confusion and frustration on himself that day."
Ms Hume said her son was 4 when he was diagnosed with eczema. The condition had dictated his social experience, made him a victim of taunts in each of his peer groups since kindergarten, and occasionally forced his hospitalisation. She said children, and their parents, sometimes avoided Raybane in public, possibly out of fear his condition was contagious. Persistent bullying and his infrequent but violent reaction to the harassment led his parents to remove him from Greytown School. He was enrolled at Carterton School four years ago.
Ms Hume spoke to his then new teacher and classmates about his condition to ease their minds and curb any potential for further bullying.
"It took a while, but now this. I'm devastated at what's happened. It's hit myself, his dad and his sisters really hard," she said.
"I really hope the principal can deal with it and make sure it doesn't happen to Raybane again, or to other children.
"Bullying can lead to young people committing suicide. People have to realise that - parents and kids - they have to realise the risk of suicide for victims of bullying is very real."
The younger boy who sparked the name-calling had also threatened to kill her son, Ms Hume said, and had since left the school and town. She reported the threat to police but the boy was too young for Youth Aid referral.
All the boys involved had served after-school detentions and were made to play apart from other pupils for a week in view of principal Alison Woollard. The parents of the boys were advised of the incident and three boys had written letters of apology to Raybane, Ms Hume said, while a mother of one of the boys also had made a personal apology on behalf of her son. Ms Hume said a teacher specialising in learning and behaviour had spoken with Raybane and he had been receiving counselling outside of school.
A report on the incident describes Raybane as a well-mannered and helpful pupil who seems generally happy despite difficulty finding a work partner in class and often being the last to be paired up. Raybane is reluctant to stay at the school, his mother said, even though he has a small but loyal circle of friends and is eager to start playing rugby for the school.
Mrs Woollard said she had been in constant touch with Raybane and his parents, the parents of the boys who had bullied him, and the school board of trustees. She said discipline and behaviour management of pupils follows school guidelines and "there certainly were serious consequences" in the wake of the incident.
"We're taking it incredibly seriously. It's absolutely our utmost priority that everybody is safe physically, emotionally and socially at school."
She said Raybane was being closely monitored and lines of contact were being kept open. with him and his parents.
Where to get help
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (4pm to 6pm weekdays)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (noon to midnight)
• The Word
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (8am to midnight)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.