Thursday 8 September 2011

Today's reason to hate the State [updated]

The State mandates that children attend school - either public or, if their parents are rich enough, a private or home-school alternative.

The State restricts your choice among schools through zoning. There are options for getting an out-of-zone placement, but it's not always easy.

Then, when children of Mongrel Mob members torture your children at school, including sexual assault, the school allegedly covers it up and gives the vicious little creatures five days' suspension.

Hutt Valley High School pupils were subjected to torture, extreme violence and sexual abuse, but school authorities failed to protect victims, alert parents or report numerous attacks to police.
A long-awaited Ombudsmen's Office report reveals chilling details of systemic violence at the school, intimidation and abuse. It also identifies a history of failing to punish culprits or acknowledge the seriousness of their crimes.
A gang of six teens terrorised classmates in late 2007, chasing younger boys around the school, dragging them to the ground to remove their pants then violating them with a screwdriver, scissors, branches, pens, pencils and drills.
The premeditated attacks were committed on year 9 boys during lunchtimes. There was little teacher supervision because some staff were too scared to carry out duties "for fear of their own safety", the report says.
When the offending was identified, the 1700-pupil co-ed state school did not alert victims' parents, police or Child, Youth and Family. It instead chose to stand down the culprits for a few days.
Things have gone far too far the other way in the States, where kids seem regularly to get stuck on sexual offender registries for sending each other naughty pics via cell phones. But this is awful.

Imagine this having happened instead in the private sector - suppose at an after-school programme. If there weren't lawsuits against the adults meant to be stopping the damned place from turning into Lord of the Flies, I'd be really surprised. I'd also be really surprised if the place didn't quickly go bankrupt as parents pulled their kids out. But the State protects its own. The Ombudsman's report finds all kinds of fault. But here are the recommendations (as summarised in the press):

  • Amend school national administration guidelines to make anti-bullying programmes mandatory in all schools, rather than being simply a recommendation from ERO.
  • Education Ministry to provide specific guidance to schools on what level of punishment is appropriate for various offences and actions. Improve disciplinary procedures by requiring principals and school boards to consider victims' views when making decisions on discipline in cases of bullying or violence.
Nobody's recommending that the teachers who allegedly looked the other way be fired or sued. They've already replaced the principal; the old one who allegedly covered up the abuse is now Deputy Principal. [I love how the podcast link at left uses the weasely "mistakes were made", "errors were made".] I have a hard time seeing how there isn't grounds for civil suits against a whole lotta folks, and probably criminal suit as well. Unless State employees are protected from lawsuit in case of negligent performance of duty. I'd sympathise with the teachers who feared Mongrel Mob retaliation, but they chose to allow freaking kids to be victims instead.

Mydeology has more details, here and here.

But isn't it freaking wonderful that we have the State to protect us. Give it a monopoly on the use of violence that it mostly exercises against the kinds of people against whom you could already defend yourself. For the ones where you'd really need the external help, like Mongrel Mob kids shoving screwdrivers into your kid's anus at school, the State won't do anything because it's too scared of the Mongrel Mob.

Today's one of the days I'd be pushing the button for the abolition of the State and its replacement with private security. Or at least make it easier for kids to switch out of criminally incompetently managed schools.

[I added the word allegedly a couple of times to be safe]

See also DomPost

Update2: Ombudsman's report says some of the involved youths were referred to the family and juvenile courts. Nothing is said of outcomes.


  1. I don't understand why the news insist on calling it a case of 'bullying' when it was plain rape. One point though, I understand that currently the Boards of Trustees (which are above the principal) already have many tools to deal with this type of problems. However, they were not used and the previous principal is still working there. Shocking.

  2. This stuff makes you despair about the fundamental nature of humanity. The Ombudsman's recommendations are pathetic, and, in the face of weak leadership, will achieve nothing. And even he seems to have employed the language of discounting and minimisation. It is truly astounding that no-one involved has been sacked, and that includes the CYFS employee Susan Pilbrow. Sometimes, unfortunately, social work attracts the wrong kind of people - psychological predators who seek access to and power over the vulnerable. (And I'm not impugning all social workers here – I talked once to a wonderful woman on the phone about a school issue.) Contrary to popular opinion, the average person will not intervene when they witness bullying, and so on some level I'm not entirely surprised by what's happened here. I think there may be more underlying detail to this story though, as the weak leadership will have caused many other problems at that school, and may have made it more difficult for anyone with the inclination to speak up to actually do so.

  3. Sacking should have been the minimum. Why aren't there criminal charges and civil suits?

  4. I can't believe that the BOT and principal appear to have avoided any kind of serious repercussions from allowing this to go on.

    However I don't think that sweeping these sorts of incidents under the carpet and not addressing them is restricted to state schools.

    I remember a number of years ago that a certain private school allegedly tolerated a significant culture of bullying (although it should be said that it didn't get to the level of what happened in Lower Hutt) which wasn't really addressed until the rector at the time left.

  5. Faces of the teachers on the front pages of newspapers would be a good start.
    But we have p*ss weak journalists for a start.

  6. @Duncan: Can totally imagine stuff being hushed up at private schools; I'd also be surprised if any parent would be willing to pay money to send their kid to a school where bullies ram screwdrivers ...

  7. For you Eric, this article is surprisingly un clinical. That’s what happens to you people who have young children, especially girl children.
    When I tried to get my daughter into Burnside High School using my then commercial address, they found out and refused. The mother of daughter, lived out of zone, and so my ex wife told me I would have to pay to send child to private school
    I begged and pleaded with her, ‘ I don’t have the money to send Jacqui to private school St. Margarets or Elizabeth or whatever you have here in Christchurch, please let us try for Burnside I said ’
    ‘tough rules’ she said
    I dragged kid along to school Burnside, she was interviewed and got in, it was all good, only had a few weeks with bad kids in second to last year, cigarettes , dope, booze, but then went back to normal self, and rowing club.

    With the screwdriver thing, I think it is one strike out and gone. I do not get interested in hysteria over any sexual nature of the offence.
    I think that rather than concentrate on the school the problem came from the screw driver kid.
    Making new rules for Doctors and school teachers has proven to be a failure.
    You get thousands of false reports.
    Deal with the root problem
    Shoot the screwdriver kid.
    We have to be real.
    A disturbed violent child like the screw driver child will not respond to affection and social welfare. I would just shoot him, because that child will grow to be a psychopath continuously damaging everything and violating around him.

  8. I remember a number of years ago that a certain private school allegedly tolerated a significant culture of bullying (although it should be said that it didn't get to the level of what happened in Lower Hutt) which wasn't really addressed until the rector at the time left
    I think I know the school you're talking about. A certain level of bullying is an unofficial but intgeral part of the English public school ethos, on which the establishment private schools in NZ sre based. But still, there is more accountability in the private sector: recall that St Stephens (an Anglican boarding school in the Bombay Hills), closed down about a decade ago, in large part following reports of endemic bullying and abuse.

  9. I think the views about private schools are too idealistic as well. Mainly due to the fact that a private school is elitist as it operates beside the free public schools.

    There are plenty of examples where private schools are selected on their good name. It is not important how well you achieve at such a school. The mere fact you have been there gives a certain status.

    Families investing money in private education do so for various reasons but I think status is not a minor reason. Once you spend a few years paying it is hard to turn around and pull your kids out. It is like admitting your choice was a bad one in your social circles.

    I know a teacher who works at a private school. They do ANYTHING to keep junior happy. Kids in private schools get away with a lot since the parents often can't be bothered to deal with school issues. "The school is paid to do a job so do it!"

    Private education might work better if it did not need to compete with public education. But I am weary of private school reputations as it is easily confused with school social status.

  10. A good name doesn't erode once families get word of serious abuse going on at the school?

    I have a hard time imagining a parent for whom "graduating from Blah-name" is more important than "not having screwdrivers rammed up bottom".

  11. Just quickly, the first recommendation is excellent, the second is probably good. But, obviously, that heads haven't rolled is a travesty.

    The Office of the Children's Commissioner has commented that it hopes it does not come to civil suits being taken against school principals/boards where endemic bullying has not been acted upon. Respectfully, I disagree. I think suits like that are possibly exactly the kind of motivation needed to force action.

    And a minor quibble: Outcomes in the Youth Court are automatically suppressed. The Ombudsman would have been remiss to discuss them.