10 Apr 2024

Bullying rife at Buller High School, students say

4:01 pm on 10 April 2024
Buller High School

Buller High School (file image). Photo: Supplied / Google Maps

Buller High School (BHS) students in the LGBTQIA+ community are being relentlessly bullied, two pupils say.

One of them has emailed The Westport News: "We request that you will write an article about the horrors that go on in and out of school for me and my friends and help put a stop to this".

The writer said about 40 BHS students in years 9-11, mostly students in the LGBTQIA+ community and their allies, were being bullied by around 10 students in years 9-13.

"This has been going on since the start of last year and for some people during their time in primary school … we are relentlessly bullied, attacked and hated for being ourselves…

"Westport is not safe for us or anyone in the LGBTQIA+ community."

The student believed BHS had about 20-30 openly queer students and others in the closet.

The email includes a statement from one of the writer's friends, alleging a boy was assaulted at lunchtime on Tuesday.

The statement said an American football was thrown at someone's face. It missed and knocked a drink over the person making the emailed statement.

"A boy in my friend group took the ball, put [it] in his jacket and went behind one of the bleachers," the statement said.

"He took the ball because we knew if we gave it back, they would have most likely thrown it again at the friend group.

"All the boys came out of the PE entrance and came over to the bleachers to annoy us. They were saying transphobic and homophobic comments, they said mean jokes about people wearing glasses and being blind, mainly to one of my friends."

Another boy asked for the ball back, then beat up the boy who refused to hand it over, the statement said.

"The boy that had the ball and another guy left and are not coming back till it's dealt with."

The student also said a boy had stabbed their friend with a carving tool, leaving a scar.

The alleged victim had told staff but no punishment had been seen.

"They say that reach out if you need help. We don't reach out because they do not help us with the problems we face."

The student said they and a friend had spoken to people in power about why a girl wasn't at school.

"Her grandmother has called the school multiple times, but they did nothing. When we talked to an authority figure, he said that he never heard about it.

"This girl left because people in her class were bullying her and saying sexual comments about her and her male friend."

The school did not help its LGBTQIA+ community, as it claimed, the student said.

"If you ask a person from that community, they will most likely say that they have been bullied nonstop for being gay or trans etc. They struggle heaps with homo and transphobia at school. My friend group has had enough of this stuff! This has hurt many people and it needs to stop."

Responding to questions from The News, the email writer said the 14-year-old boy who allegedly got beaten up yesterday was hit, kicked and thrown around in a small space. He did not need medical treatment but was sore.

"There were only about 10 boys doing the bullying but there was a solid 40 standing around laughing when my friend got beat up."

In the other alleged attack, in a visual art class, a chisel was used to stab a boy in the stomach.

"His stomach was bleeding but thankfully it healed quickly and all that was left was a scar."

The email writer told The News they had not been targeted by bullies but were worried about their safety.

"I fear that I will be attacked just for being friends with people I care about.

"Buller High School is not safe, nor is Westport, for the youth.

"Buller High School needs something to be done or else me and my friends will need to go to the police and take matters into our own hands. We will not be pushed around … if they want a fight they will get a fight."

The student thanked the teachers who had done something to help. "We need more teachers like you."

The student also had a message for parents who encouraged the bullying: "You're not doing any good to this world; you make people want to hurt and kill themselves. I want all of you to stop this before it kills people".

The News has chosen not to name any of the students.

BHS principal Andrew Basher declined to discuss the claims this morning, except to confirm the school was investigating yesterday's alleged assault.

"Just because it's on Facebook and stuff doesn't make it true."

Basher asked The News to submit written questions. He responded with a statement which did not specifically address any of the questions.

"I will not discuss any individual incidents regarding students," his statement said.

"However, any concern or incident raised by a student is addressed and investigated fully, this is normal practice.

"We work with students and groups of students to resolve areas of conflict whenever they arise and investigate strategies to avoid these in the future. Social media is not an appropriate nor respectful forum to address these at any time.

"After each incident we reflect on what we can do or change to ensure that the student or students feel supported. This includes working with parents and whānau to determine the outcomes to best suit the student.

"We are and will continue to work with our student community to ensure that our school is a safe, positive and healthy learning environment."

According to its website, BHS has a roll of about 340 students.

- This story was originally published by Westport News.

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