Violent fights between John Paul College students have been caught on video.
The school's principal says those involved are being dealt with, saying most of the fights are sparked by comments made on social media.
A spokesperson for the Children's Commissioner has labelled the fights as "disturbing and clearly not appropriate behaviour, which should be discouraged".
The videos, obtained by the Rotorua Daily Post, show five fights between pairs of students in front of other people. The Daily Post has decided not to publish the footage to protect the students involved.
One video shows two girls wrestling. Punches are thrown, and one girl is thrown to the ground before getting up and continuing to fight. They pull each other's hair as a number of other students watch. Someone can be heard appearing to encourage them.
Another video shows two boys in what appears to be a bathroom kicking each other and exchanging punches, with some bystander commentary. Another video shows two boys fighting on a sports field, with one punching the other in the head multiple times.
In a video taken on what appears to be a bus, two male students can be seen pushing each other before punching each other's heads. Another bus video shows two students wrestling each other, and people can be heard jeering and laughing in the background.
John Paul College principal Patrick Walsh told the Rotorua Daily Post he had seen the videos in question.
"The school is aware of the situation," he said
"The students have been identified, we've notified the parents and we're working through a disciplinary process with them."
A school parent spoken to by the Rotorua Daily Post questioned whether the school was doing anything about the fights, saying children were going to school in fear and not being protected.
However, Walsh was adamant the school was dealing with the issue.
"We do take it very seriously. All schools are meant to be safe places for all of the students and any fight that happens is contrary to our Catholic values. It's totally inappropriate.
"We will deal with it accordingly. There are consequences, some are at the extreme end in terms of stand-downs and suspensions. We do treat the matter very seriously - we take a disciplinary approach to it but also there's a therapeutic and educative approach as well.
"We need to advise students why fighting is not a good idea and that they need to use other means to resolve conflicts."
Walsh said the conflicts usually began on social media.
"They generally have their genesis in inappropriate comments made on social media by students, which is a matter schools up and down the country grapple with.
"There were no serious injuries and I think it's boys getting a bit testosterone-inflamed over things. Social media has its benefits but it obviously has its downsides as well. People will say things on social media that in the cold light of day they regret saying."
He said he was pleased with how quickly other students reported the fights to school staff.
An Office of the Children's Commissioner spokesperson said there was a "significant risk" to the young people involved, including witnesses, "and that concerns us".
"This is a societal issue and everyone needs to take some responsibility, including reducing the socioeconomic drivers of the stressors that can lead to violence," the spokesperson said.
As well as mental, there were physical risks for those involved, especially when being hit in the head.
"Blows to the head can cause traumatic brain injury that can result in lifelong neurodisabilities," the spokesperson said.
"Being thrown to the ground can cause grievous bodily harm including internal injuries. There is also trauma inflicted on children's brains by participating in and by witnessing violence – it causes stress and anxiety, and can have long term negative effects on mental health and wellbeing."
Asked if physical violence was common in high schools throughout New Zealand, they said international evidence pointed to comparatively high levels of bullying in New Zealand.
"An ERO study published in 2015 showed 11 per cent of male, 4 per cent of female and 19 per cent of gender diverse students experienced such bullying behaviours as 'hit, pushed, kicked, punched or choked'.
"There are many reasons people fight. Violent responses can often be a sign of distress, can reflect limitations in communication skills, and inability to regulate behaviour. It can also be a response to triggers."
Bullying prevention guidelines produced by the Ministry of Education had a raft of actions schools and whānau could take. These included de-escalating concerning behaviour before fights broke out and responding to violent behaviour after it had happened.
"In our research, we have seen schools where students learn the techniques to de-escalate behaviour issues and undertake to restore relationships between children who have disagreements."
The spokesperson said learning about restorative practices that ensure children and young people can be taught appropriate ways to behave are most important, both for school leadership and teachers, and for parents and whānau.
"You can't just kick young people out of school, because that doesn't solve the issue, and the consequences are terrible for those removed from school, where they often have worse outcomes than if they had stayed in a supportive environment learning to deal with their issues."
Netsafe chief executive officer Martin Cocker said social media "definitely does" play a role in escalating conflicts.
"If people put inflammatory comments on social media or videos of previous fights, that posting and information makes it more difficult for conflicts to de-escalate and more likely they escalate."
If videos posted online harmed or endangered people or enabled another crime, then laws such as the Harmful Digital Communications Act and the Crimes Act covered it, he said.
Cocker said bullying between young people happened anyway, but because they lived so much of their lives online, bullying and harassment played out there too.
The key difference about bullying online is that it can be relentless and follow a person everywhere they go, but with traditional bullying, there were areas where people felt in danger and safe, he said.
"The thing with cyberbullying is that it removes that feeling of ever feeling safe."
When conflict occurred, Cocker advised to seek assistance from people who could help to de-escalate it and remove harmful content.
"For a young person and their family they can turn to the school, the police if they feel there's a physical threat and safety issues and they can also come to Netsafe if they're looking for help on how to deal with content online."
A police spokeswoman said one fight at the school had been reported. It appeared there were minor injuries and police were following up, she said.
- Additional reporting Megan Wilson, Emma Houpt