Office of the Ombudsmen
Te Tari-o-Ngā Kaitiaki Mana Tangata
Ombudsmen want compulsory anti-bullying programmes in schools
The Ombudsmen’s Office is calling for anti-bullying programmes to be mandatory in all schools in the wake of its
investigation into serious assaults at Hutt Valley High School.
And the Office also wants to see victims gaining a voice in school disciplinary processes and greater guidance for
The report by Ombudsman David McGee was today tabled in Parliament following his investigation into complaints arising
from a series of violent incidents that occurred at Hutt Valley High School in December 2007. The complaints were made
by a group of parents against the school, Child Youth and Family and the Education Review Office.
In the report, David McGee says the serious assaults that occurred at the school in late 2007 were part of a “systemic
problem of violence”, which the school had recognised but had not addressed satisfactorily.
“They were not referred to the Police or CYF for investigation, they were not adequately punished, and the school took
it upon itself to interpret medical information in favour of the perpetrators. Victims’ parents were not told by the
school that their children had been assaulted.”
There was a lack of student supervision outside of class time, with teachers not performing scheduled duty, some for
fear of their own safety, he says.
A complaint against the Education Review Office that it had failed to properly assess the safety of the school was
upheld. A complaint against Child Youth and Family was also upheld for its failure to manage a conflict of interest held
by one of its staff who was also chair of the school’s board of trustees.
David McGee says that while the school understated the seriousness of the 2007 assaults, it had since been very
proactive in addressing bullying and violence at the school. These steps had included introducing anti-bullying
programmes and setting up a safety advisory group which included student representatives.
In his report, David McGee recommended school national administration guidelines be amended to make anti-bullying
programmes compulsory in all schools, rather than it being simply a recommendation from ERO.
“I also consider the present disciplinary procedures could be improved by requiring principals and Boards of Trustees to
consider the views of victims when making decisions on discipline, when the infringement at issue is bullying or
Victims could be given the opportunity to either provide a written victim impact statement or to attend board suspension
hearings, he said.
David McGee also recommended the Ministry of Education provide schools with more specific guidance on the levels of
punishment appropriate for various actions.
“This is because the situation at Hutt Valley High School demonstrates that the lack of appropriate sanctions can
contribute to, and risk normalisation of, a culture of violence.”
While a rigid national template for school discipline would have little merit, the current “entirely discretionary”
system risked producing arbitrary disciplinary decisions both within and between schools, he said.
The Ombudsman’s full report is available online at www.ombudsmen.parliament.nz