Claims of sexual assault, bullying at primary school

Macleans Primary in Bucklands Beach. Photo: Macleans Primary School PTA public Facebook page.

The parents of a student at a local primary school are upset that an alleged bullying and sexual assault incident involving some of its students has been “swept under the rug”.

A mother, who wished to remain anonymous, says her son had recently started at Macleans Primary School in Bucklands Beach when he came to her with claims that he and some friends were being bullied by older students.

“He told me that he and three friends had been approached by boys from the senior school and were threatened – ‘pull down your pants or I’ll kill you’.”

She says it then came out that her son’s friend had allegedly been touched inappropriately by one of the older students.

When the victim’s mother was told, her son confirmed the sexual assault and the incident was reported to the police.

“My son is very honest and good verbally so he was able to tell me about what has been happening at the school. The mother of the boy who was touched thanked me and said, ‘thank god your son arrived at this school when he did’,” she says.

“We took all this information to the headmaster, horrified obviously, and all the school did was ask my son to identify the older students involved, which he did. The headmaster spoke to the older boys and asked, ‘did you do it?’ and they said ‘no’ and the school considered the matter closed.”

She says the bullying has continued even after being reported to the school.

“The boys are even angrier now that they have been pointed out. It’s getting even worse.”

She says one teacher said if her son was having problems at break times, he could come into the classroom to eat his lunch.

“My [son] said, ‘well the teacher isn’t here at break time’. So I turned to her and said are you not here during break time? And she just said ‘that’s right I’m in the staff room’.”

She says she will be pulling her son out of the school but worries that the students who remain at the school will continue to be subjected to ongoing bullying.

“The school is not taking it seriously enough. One of the parents went in and said, ‘children do kill themselves so this is very serious’ and she was told by the headmaster that she was being dramatic.”

Macleans Primary principal Brian Bayly says the school is taking the matter seriously and values the welfare of its students above all else.

“It is of the utmost importance we respect the privacy of our young people.  We take the welfare of our students very seriously,” Bayly says.

“We are working with the appropriate agencies to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our students.  We have taken advice from the Ministry of Education and NZSTA (New Zealand School Trustees Association) to ensure we are following all the right processes and doing everything we need to do for our young people and the school community.”

Police have confirmed they received a complaint on Wednesday morning last week about an alleged incident that took place at Macleans Primary.

“Police have assessed the complaint and, due to the age of the children involved, we have referred the matter to Oranga Tamariki,” police said.

“We can confirm the matter has been referred to us,” says Dee McManus-Emery, Oranga Tamariki regional manager, south Auckland.

“In situations like this, Oranga Tamariki works closely with the Ministry of Education. Our focus is always on the welfare of children and young people” McManus-Emery says.

The Ministry of Education says it is supporting Macleans Primary to resolve the matter.

“The safety and wellbeing of our children and young people is a top priority for all schools and the Ministry.  We were advised about a matter last week which has been referred to Oranga Tamariki as the appropriate agency to manage,” says Katrina Casey, MOE Deputy Secretary Sector Enablement and Support.

“We have contacted the school and will provide support if needed.  We are confident that the Board of Trustees and their senior leadership team are managing this matter well and following best practice.”