No bullying culture at college, says principal

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Bullying behaviours are “an age-old global phenomena” and Ashburton College is no different from other secondary schools around the country, says its principal.

In a statement to address a high profile bullying incident involving a 14-year-old girl, Ross Preece said Ashburton College did not condone bullying, but equally did not have a bullying culture.

From a roll of 1200 students, there were 11 names and a very small percentage of students causing serious concern.

Mr Preece said the college had “a moral imperative” to guide all students through what, for some, could be turbulent years.

“We will succeed in developing the behaviours of some of our ‘challenges’. If we ‘get rid’ of them, their behaviour will certainly become worse.”

Mr Preece said excluding a child at 13 or 14, when you were the only secondary school in Ashburton, was a last resort because the students were unlikely to gain enrolment elsewhere, and without qualifications, were destined “to move down the wrong path”.

Ashburton College follows a well-defined process to address inappropriate behaviour, which sometimes escalates from incidents outside of school.

For serious and repeat incidents, students are suspended, as seen with the latest bullying incident, where two students have been handed temporary suspensions.

Suspended students are then required to attend a disciplinary hearing where the facts of the incident are considered before a committee decision is made.

“Schools cannot instantly exclude a child – this is a board responsibility.

“We are required to try all avenues to keep young people engaged in education,” said Ross Preece.

Mr Preece said the public often made a snap judgement, based on brief news footage, social media comments and gossip.

Ashburton College remained the logical choice for the district’s teenagers and would continue to guide them through the secondary school system, which was challenging and remained a formidable hurdle for some.