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Bullied pupil brandishes knife

A Masterton Intermediate School pupil lost his temper and went to get a knife after another pupil intimidated him before school last week. PHOTO/TOM TAYLOR

Bullying at every school, principal Thompson says

Story by Tom Taylor

An altercation between two pupils at Masterton Intermediate School [MIS] last week ended with one pupil wielding a knife.

Principal Russell Thompson said a Year 8 pupil had been intimidating a younger pupil when the latter lost his temper on Wednesday morning before school.

The aggressor had pushed the younger pupil to the ground and attempted to take some money from him.

The younger pupil became increasingly frustrated and finally ran into a room that was used as a pupil kitchen facility. He grabbed a knife from a drawer and ran back outside.

“He was waving it around but at no point was he threatening to do anything to anyone with it,” Thompson said.

Several staff members who were patrolling the school reacted quickly after other pupils alerted them to the situation.

“One of our female staff spoke quietly and pleasantly to him in a way that encouraged him to put the knife down, which he fortunately did.”

Staff brought the pupil to the administration area, where he calmed down. Both sets of parents came to collect their children, who were stood down for the remainder of the week.

Thompson said the parents were supportive of the school’s actions and disappointed that their children had chosen “anger over calmness”.

“Both [pupils] are quite remorseful today,” Thompson said on Monday. The stand-down period had allowed the pupils to contemplate their actions, he said.

“We have a fairly good line in the sand for stuff like that. We have to create a safe environment for all 460 kids that we have, and we’re not keen to let two or three wreck it for the rest.”

MIS had not involved police in the incident, though Thompson said they would have if the pupil had refused to put the knife down.

“I think schools are expected to tolerate behaviour … If these kids were 18 years old, they may be sitting in a courtroom and they may be spending time in jail.”

Thompson was aware that bullying happened at MIS along with every other school in New Zealand.

“If you’re in a school, you’re going to have to deal with bullying. If somebody tries to say that they don’t have any bullying in their schools, they probably have their head in the sand.”

A 2019 Education Review Office [ERO] report found that 46 per cent of primary-age pupils and 31 per cent of secondary-age students in New Zealand had been bullied at their school.

The proportion of pupils who had witnessed bullying was even greater, with 61 per cent of primary-age pupils and 58 per cent of secondary-age students reporting they had seen someone else being bullied at their school.

The ERO report noted that some of the effects of school bullying could “extend far beyond the school gates”, with New Zealand also having troubling statistics on family violence and workplace bullying.

Thompson had taken measures to confront bullying at MIS, signing the school up for the KiVa programme last year.

KiVa was an anti-bullying programme developed at the University of Turku, Finland, which was now used at organisations in 15 countries, including New Zealand. The programme provided tools to tackle and monitor bullying in more than 50 New Zealand schools.

“It’s trying to say to kids, ‘you have to be kind to each other’,” Thompson said. “If you are a bystander and you see some bullying, you have a huge potential to stop that bullying from continuing.”

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