31 Aug 2019

Scathing report into bullying has victim 'vindicated'

7:33 pm on 31 August 2019

The Chief Ombudsman has found that an Auckland school has woefully mishandled three serious bullying complaints.

Worried depressed sad teen boy (child) crying near brick wall

Photo: 123RF

A report by Peter Boshier said Sacred Heart College staff failed to adequately deal with the bullying, which took a toll on students' health.

One complaint involved the daily verbal and physical bullying of an 11-year-old autistic boy.

The boy and his mother alerted the school to more than 90 incidents of bullying over the nine months he attended Sacred Heart College in 2016.

The lack of action from staff and continued bullying caused such severe anxiety, doctors gave the boy a medical certificate which allowed him to leave the college and give the parents time to find somewhere else for him to attend.

Judge Boshier's report said the actions taken by school staff were ineffective in dealing with the ongoing behaviour.

"It is regrettable that this is the third complaint that this office has dealt with in recent times, where the issue of bullying has arisen and there appears to have been a failure by the college to deal effectively with this behaviour," Judge Boshier said.

He criticised Sacred Heart College's lack of procedure around bullying and advised the school and its board of trustees to review their policies in accordance with New Zealand guidelines.

The boys' mother, Siobhan Harvey, said she was relieved her complaints about the school were validated by the ombudsman.

"We feel vindicated that we took the struggle and we fought for simply the justice of our son,

"We are so thankful for the ombudsman for seeing the truth of the situation."

The boy is now 15 and happily enjoying his education at another school.

He said when he was at Sacred Heart College he felt "anxious, worried and scared" because the bullying continuously got worse.

But Judge Boshier's report made him happy that he had finally been heard.

"It is good to have someone of authority actually confirming this and proving they [the school] were in the wrong.

"I knew all along they should have been doing more."

He said he wanted his story to be told so other people experiencing similar situations would not feel alone.

In a statement, Sacred Heart College said: "A raft of changes have been implemented at the school since 2016."

They has updated and "clearly defined procedures for reporting, documenting and managing" concerns about problematic behaviour.

But the school and board of trustees accepted the situation involving Ms Harvey and her son was not "well handled".

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs