Newspaper clipping – The Mercury – 12 June 2009

School takes its bullying seriously

The Pinetown Boys High School management and governing body say they have never neglected to deal with allegations of bullying at the school and have procedures to deal with the issue.

The school was defending itself against allegations made this week that it had not acted against bullying incidents at the school.

In one case, a Durban father opened a case of intimidation against a group of 16- and 17- year olds after his some had been allegedly bullied since September last year.

The son was allegedly beaten at the school and attacked again out of school when charges were laid.

School governing body chairman Shawn O’Neil said the father had dealt with the matter privately with the parents of his son’s attackers.
            “He only raised the issue with the school in April this year and we have been investigating it internally since then,” he said.

A woman told The Mercury that she had removed her son from the school after he was allegedly bullied for months and “strangle” when he refused to steal a pie from the tuck shop for a matric pupil.

O’Neil said that incident had not been reported to the management.

Another woman, who also removed her son from the school, said he had been victimized because he was gay. She said he was once dangled over a balcony and had attempted suicide.

O’Neil said that boy had left the school towards the end of 2005. He said according to their records, the boy had been “pushed against a banister”.
            “That youngster (the attacker) was punished. His (the victim’s) file has no other records of bullying reported to management,” he said.

In a letter to parents on Thursday, the school said it had dealt with 35 cases of bullying this year.

Debra Barr, a member of the governing body, said:
            “We take it very seriously. But it is important to note that we want to rehabilitate both the victim and the bully,” she said.

O’Neil said expelling pupils was a last resort.

At the school, victims of bullying are required to identify their attackers and both sides give written statements on the matter. Interviews follow and may include parents. A punishment or warning not to recommit the offence is handed down. Both children are sent for internal counseling.

Pupils face an internal disciplinary hearing for second offences. If found guilty, they are suspended for five days and the cases are referred to the Education Department.

A disciplinary tribunal is convened for third offences and a recommendation made to the department that the bully be expelled.

Reports of bullying can be emailed to the school or principal and SMSed to the “Safe School Watch” number. The KwaZulu-Natal Education Department said it did not have a policy on bullying, specifically.

Meanwhile, an assault case against 12 Parktown Boys High School, Joburg, pupils has been postponed to next month to allow time for pre-trial reports.