1 Sep 2019

Call for compulsory anti-bullying programmes in all schools

2:33 pm on 1 September 2019

The Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft wants anti-bullying programmes in schools to be compulsory.

Little boy sitting alone on floor after suffering an act of bullying while children run in the background.

Photo: 123RF

His recommendation follows a report by the Chief Ombudsman, Peter Boshier, which condemned an Auckland school's poor response to a series of serious bullying complaints.

Judge 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.

Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft

Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft Photo: Supplied

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

Judge Becroft said it is New Zealand's shame that we have the highest school bullying rate in the Western world, and yet some schools have not taken action.

"We have to be much clearer now and make it an obligation that every board of trustees has in place a validated and effective anti-bullying programme," Judge Becroft said.

"We've been leaving it in a rather laissez-faire way. What we need now is a culture of it being utterly unacceptable and a climate where every child can feel free without shame or stigma, to report bullying."

He wants bullying to be looked at in a wider context.

"We are in a community with unacceptably high rates of family violence, partner violence, abuse, probably even our high suicide rates.

"They are all inter-related so what's happening in schools is part of a much wider issue."

Judge Becroft said measurements and checks are also needed to show bullying is reducing and that schools' programmes are effective.

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