Kids being beaten up in the bathrooms, fist fights in class and students being slammed into hallway walls are a daily occurrence at an Auckland school, parents claim.
A video has emerged of one Howick College student throwing a classmate to the ground, repeatedly punching him and kicking him in the head - all while students and a teacher look on.
Parents spoken to by the Herald claim such violence is a daily occurrence, and the culture of bullying at the school has caused them to take their children out of Howick College.
But, principal Dale Burden has refuted the allegations, saying fights at the school were “very rare”.
“We are no more immune to these issues than any other school. Schools don’t exist in a bubble - they reflect society in general,” he said.
The fight caught on video happened on March 28 and Burden said the “perpetrator” was no longer at the school and was being “supported into another school”.
“The issue was dealt with swiftly and justly, with care and support for both the victim and the perpetrator,” he said.
Burden said on the “rare occasion” students physically attacked a peer, the college took a “very firm approach”.
“Our approach depends on the context of each situation. There is no one situation that is the same.
“The school’s action can range from a restorative conference for minor incidents, to a student being suspended pending a board hearing for a serious incident,” he said.
“Our college has a very strong pastoral care network that provides many levels of support. There is a culture of care at our college.”
But parents spoken to by the Herald claimed they thought there was a “massive bullying problem” and alleged the school was not doing enough to protect their children.
One mother moved her son to a different school at the end of last year, after a group of boys hauled him into the bathroom where they started throwing punches and knocked him to the ground.
He managed to avoid most of the blows and the beating came to an end when a teacher came in - but the group made sure he knew they weren’t done with him yet.
“It’s actually horrific. It’s happening every single day,” the mother alleged.
“This is happening so often and no one’s doing anything. We’re just, as parents, saying do something more. A slap on the wrist, two days suspension at home and a class that’s going to help regulate their emotions is not it.”
She believed her 16-year-old son was lucky to escape with only a small cut on his lip and a few scrapes and pains.
The mother said her son was too scared to go back to school so they made the decision to move him to a different school this year.
Another parent who pulled her son out of the school said he started Howick Collge as a Year 9 student in 2021 but was bullied so badly, that by August he was depressed and refusing to go to school.
His mother said a group of boys started knocking him over, pushing pencils into his leg and excluding him, after a verbal disagreement with one of them in a class.
While he didn’t want to “nark”, his parents went to a school dean about it and the students involved were spoken to - but things only got worse.
The group continued heckling and excluding her son, and students he didn’t know started slamming him into walls when he was walking down the corridor.
“There was just this massive bullying problem, in general,” she claimed.
“It became such a huge problem when... random kids who were a lot bigger than him were charging him in the hallways and attacking him on the fields when he was on his own.”
She claimed senior staff refused to acknowledge there was a problem at the school but her experience was that the “general culture was disgusting” and her son was not safe at school.
“To be fair to the school, our initial concerns, they did try to resolve but it just became a bigger issue and apparent to us it wasn’t a safe place to have a boy in Year 9.”
The bullying and exclusion caused her usually happy, confident boy to withdraw and become depressed.
“He was absolutely depressed, beside himself. To the point that I couldn’t leave him on his own, I was so worried about him. It was horrific,” she said.
The mother said she had heard many stories of fights and knew other parents who had removed their children after similar issues.
Another mother said her daughter was verbally abused, threatened, isolated, pushed and shoved. She also believes she narrowly avoided being beaten up on at least two occasions.
A friend of her daughter was not so lucky and ended up with a concussion after being beaten up at school, the mother said.
“There’s always fighting. She didn’t feel protected at all.”
Her mother said the situation was so bad her daughter became severely depressed and started self-harming.
Even when they reported the bullying, the students were told to stay in different parts of the school but it made no difference.
“The main concern with Howick College is the way they deal with things,” she said.
“I don’t think the way they are dealing with things has the right outcomes. Kids feel they can do whatever they want because there are no repercussions. They need to know that the behaviour is not acceptable.”
The mother said they made the decision to start her daughter at a different school this year and she was “happy” and “flourishing”.
The parent of another student said his child had avoided physical abuse but had become the victim of cyberbullying this year, after a group of students started posting hurtful photos and videos on social media.
The school suggested arranging a meeting between them to sort it out, but the student believed it would only make the situation worse.
The parent said the boy no longer felt comfortable going to class, so they pulled him out not long after the school year had started and he was already happier at his new school.
Ministry of Education North leader Isabel Evans said they had not had any concerns raised with them.
“We’ve been in contact with the school to offer our support if needed. The school takes any such incidents extremely seriously and has procedures in place to manage any concerns or unacceptable behaviour in the school environment.”