WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
Two Rotorua 1st XV rugby players filmed violently throwing a bird into a wall and stomping on it before its death, have been handed punishments from their ex-high school.
The John Paul College Board of Trustees Disciplinary Sub-Committee has released its findings after a three-hour hearing last week, into what it described as "cruel mistreatment and death" that attracted "international mainstream media interest".
A written media statement prepared by sub-committee chairman Jonathan Temm said the two young men "left the college earlier in 2018 and are pursuing apprenticeship and employment".
"The only remaining connection with the college is both students are permitted to continue to play in the college 1st XV rugby team as this season was begun before they left school. The BOP Secondary schools Rugby rules permit this activity."
The teens were filmed laughing "Don't be mean to Tweety" and the disturbing video was uploaded to social media on Snapchat and sent to NZME.
It started with a young man holding the bird by its wing before it was slapped to the ground.
The bird hopped into a corner, where the filmer stomped on it several times and then zoomed in on it motionless on the floor.
It was picked up by another teen who pretended to eat it, before throwing the animal into a wall.
The filmer then picked up the bird and threw it on to another wall as the others laughed.
The John Paul College media statement said the school's Facebook page had to be taken down after the video was made public because of the volume of comments.
"This social media commentary was inaccurate, unfair and abusive including physical threats of violence and aggressive character assassination of parents and wider family."
The committee highlighted the video was filmed at a private family home, and the event was not school-related, nor was it supervised or sanctioned by the school.
It noted "the early acceptance of responsibility and the genuine remorse" by the young men, and that they "had the support of parents and family".
"In accordance with the college's Lasallian approach and Catholic character the committee acknowledged wrong-doing, contrition, forgiveness and rehabilitation as the primary considerations to apply."
It suspended the ex-students from all competition rugby for the college for three competition games, half of the season remaining.
They were also ordered to attend counselling sessions focused on cruelty to animals and appropriate social media internet use, provide voluntary SPCA service for three months, make a "sizeable" donation to that organisation, and make a further apology to the staff, students and families of the college at a later time.
"Both former students are on a good behaviour bond until the end of the rugby season."
When John Paul College principal Patrick Walsh first watched the footage he said he was "appalled and deeply saddened".
Today he explained that the two 1st XV members started the year at school, but had since left.
"My understanding is that if they are at school, and they are at school for a term and a day the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union allows them to continue playing for that season."
He said the board's statement was "fairly comprehensive" and he was not authorised to comment further.
Last week, the SPCA confirmed it would investigate the incident.
Today a spokeswoman said "Our SPCA Inspectorate have been involved, and that work is still ongoing".